Welcome to the Friday Fright Fest, the only scary movie guide you will need hanging in your dungeons for the week ahead. If you’re the kind of ghoul who feels like they’ve watched too many comedy or romance flicks lately and need a good scare, Phil Robinson provides his choice cuts of the best – and worst – horror films in the week ahead.
1Pick of the Week
From Dusk Till Dawn (1995)
E4: Monday 27th July, 10.00pm
If there are two film makers whose works can divide a room faster than Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, I haven’t found them yet. The two have polarised movie goers since early in their careers, with their first collaboration film being no exception. Written by QT, and directed by Rodriguez, From Dusk Till Dawn is a bank heist-turned-monster flick that has everything in the right place, and is a love letter to sleaze and rotten-to-the-gore cinema.
In his first major movie role George Clooney (yep, that guy) stars alongside Tarantino as the Gecko Brothers, two criminal fugitives on the run and heading for the Mexican boarder. Along for the ride is the hostage family of an ex-pastor (Harvey friggin’ Keitel) and his two kids (Ernest Liu and a young Juliette Lewis). As the mismatched group find themselves evading the law and ultimately facing off against the forces of hell in a bar affectionately called “The Titty Twister”, you realise pretty quick how ridiculous the whole thing is; and you’ll love every minute of it.
It’s a little rough around the edges, by design, but what is offered here is well written, well acted, character driven storytelling, pushed all the further by a wonderful supporting cast that includes Danny Trejo before he fell into self-parody, not one but three appearances by Cheech Marin, and a movie-stealing opening scene from the ever-wonderful Michael Parks. This one is stuffed to bursting, then has a little extra jammed in for good measure.
If you’ve never seen this one, and you have your doubts because of the names attached, give up on your assumptions and watch this movie. Just once, you’ll fall in love. This is not the overcooked Grindhouse that the pair gave us a few years ago. This is them accomplishing an old fashioned bit of horror worship, which is a roller coaster from start to bloody, messy end.
2Worth the Watch
Sky Movies Premiere: Saturday 25th July, 8.00pm
When watching The Conjuring, the kind-of-but-not-really spiritual sister film to Insidious – both directed by James Wan – one thing stuck out more than anything else. That one thing was the sinister doll, Annabelle. A sub-plot throughout the movie, less was certainly more for the scares from the little lady of terror, with the scene involving the nurses’ story of her still being one of the most chilling things horror has thrown our way in recent years.
So no wonder the fan reaction was such that the demand for a spinoff was inevitable. It happens to all the great characters of the genre; hell, look at Insidious itself, getting two sequels in a very short space of time indeed. But instead of giving us a straight up Conjuring 2 – that film seems to be caught up somewhere along the development pipeline just now – we have instead been treated to the Annabelle origin story which, for the most part, is a pretty entertaining scream.
In the swinging 60s, and taking full advantage of the cult paranoia of the time, we meet Mia and John, suburbanites and all round lovely people. The first big scares, coming from a home invasion by such a cult, lead to the possession of a doll, and we enter a tangled web of supernatural scares and ominous omens.
The movie, though delivering some great scares – the opening mentioned above, and a wonderful scene when Mia forgets one of the biggest rules in horror: don’t go down to the basement alone – plays it relatively safe, taking us from point A to point B without too much of the unexpected. But this isn’t to say you won’t have fun. It’s a well made film with competent direction from John Leonetti, and a story that leaves room for Annabelle to still prove herself as the new first lady of horror.
3Worth the Watch
BBC2: Saturday 25th July, 10.40pm
The problem with David Fincher’s take on the events surrounding the Zodiac Killer was always going to be a simple one; those dismissing it straight away, or those who couldn’t get into it after the first watch were always going to compare it to his earlier film Seven. And I love Seven, but to compare the two is to miss the point completely.
Following the historic case that surrounded several brutal killings in the States by The Zodiac, the staff of a newspaper are invited to play their part in spreading his message publicly, which leads them all to descend down the rabbit hole of paranoid finger-pointing, chasing up false leads and jumping at shadows more times than actual leads.
A cast stuffed full of great performances from the very best the big screen has to offer, the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. and Brian Cox are shining from the word go. And the direction is sleek, just falling short of being included in the current run of career highlight flicks that Fincher is making.
4For the Diehards
The Mummy (1999)
ITV2: Thursday 30th July, 7.30pm
It was always going to be a tricky one, when Universal rehashed the idea of The Mummy as a big action blockbuster for the new millennium. Especially when the finished film is, for the most part, family friendly – a few creepy beasties and some flesh devouring aside of course.
Join Rachel Weisz’s bookworm archaologist, as Brendan Fraser takes her on the adventure of a lifetime, raiding tombs and saving the world from an undead Egyptian high priest.
The scale is massive, and although some of the effects have not aged well, this is worth checking out, whether it’s your first time or if you’re feeling a little bit nostalgic for a good old fashioned adventure.
5Avoid Like the Plague
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
E4: Sunday 26th July, 11.55pm
This is a joke, right? It seems like every week someone thinks it would be a great idea to throw on another Scary Movie film. Well, at least it gives us a reason to keep the “Avoid Like the Plague” section up to date…
Anna Faris, in a haunted house, with spoofs and skits that were outdated long before the film’s release. Even at this point the franchise was outstaying its welcome.
At this rate we’ll have the whole franchise condemned here in no time.