Sunday, 15 December 2013

TV: Coming Attractions - Brit-Horror and other delights on BBC2 - This Christmas!

Plenty of late-night TV treats in store for horror fans in the UK this Christmas. BBC2 are screening a selection of classic and more recent horrors over the festive period. It kind of takes me back to the good old days of late-night horror on BBC2...

Vintage BBC2 Christmas Ident . (c) BBC

Anyway, before misty-eyed nostalgia takes over, here's what's on and at what time, including a couple of other items which may be of interest...

NOTE: Times and dates may be subject to change. Also, if a film is showing at 1 a.m. it is actually early the next morning, if you get my drift...

Saturday 21st December

01:00: The Wake Wood (2010) - The parents of a girl killed by a savage dog are given the opportunity to spend three more days with her... An interesting hybrid of The Monkey's Paw crossed with Wicker Man religion. After the false dawn of Beyond The Rave, this was the film which suggested there might be something in the revival of the Hammer brand after all. If taken in the tradition of the Hammer House Of Horror TV series, it stands up very nicely.

Monday 23rd December

00:35: Witchfinder General (1968) - Vincent Price gives one of his finest performances as corrupt self-styled witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins. Not just a horror, it is perhaps equal parts a British set revenge western. We will sadly never know whether director Michael Reeves would have capitalised on this achievement, but he left the world with a staggering piece of work. Still truly unnerving, and essential viewing.

Tuesday 24th December

23:25: The Awakening (2011) - A very satisfying ghost story from the pen of Stephen Volk in collaboration with director Nick Murphy. Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is a crusader in exposing fake mediums in post-WW1 England, but finds there might be something in the supernatural after all when she investigates a ghost at a boarding school.

01:05: The Spiral Staircase (1945) - Film Noir, Mystery, Thriller... call it what you will, but it also ticks plenty of gothic horror boxes. A serial killer is murdering young disabled women in early 20th century New England. Is mute servant Helen (Dorothy McGuire) the next victim? Directed by Robert Siodmak (Son Of Dracula), this is a top class RKO production.

Wednesday 25th December

16:15: An Adventure In Space And Time (2013) - Mark Gatiss' thoughtful dramatisation of the genesis of Doctor Who. If you missed it first time around, well worth seeing - David Bradley gives a moving performance as first doctor William Hartnell - and, speaking of Mr Gatiss...

21:30: The Tractate Middoth (2013) - Much anticipated, Mark Gatiss has a go at reviving the Ghost Stories For Christmas strand. A mysterious academic seeks an ancient Hebrew text in a library, provoking strange apparitions...

22:05: MR James: Ghost Writer - A brand new documentary on the writer and his works.

Thursday 25th December

00:10: Dracula (1958) - Yes, it's the greatest film ever made (don't argue with me on this - you know I'm right). Christopher Lee gives the definitive screen portrayal of Bram Stoker's vampire count, Peter Cushing kicks serious butt as the best Van Helsing of them all, and if you've never seen it your film education has a big hole in it. A truly iconic piece of British cinema from director Terence Fisher.

Friday 26th December

01:15: The Mummy (1959) - Cushing, Lee and Fisher again, as revived mummy Kharis (Lee) seeks revenge on Egyptologist John Banning (Cushing) for the desecration of his tomb. Classic stuff.

Saturday 28th December

00:40: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) - It's a Cushing/Lee/Fisher triple header! This is the one that really kick-started the Hammer Hammer tradition, bringing us the Baron's exploits in lurid colour. Cushing's Baron is cocky, suave but also increasingly fanatical, whilst Lee's portrayal of the creature is sympathetic. The whole Brit-horror cycle owes this film a great debt..

Sunday 29th December

02:00: The Abominable Snowman (1957) - A more underrated piece from Hammer, and the monochrome photography suits the Himalayan setting perfectly. It's that Peter Cushing again, this time with Forrest Tucker, leading an expedition to find the creature of the title. Excellent direction from Val Guest, and a typically literate script from Nigel Kneale which raises plenty of moral questions along the way.

Wednesday 1st January

23:40: The Resident (2011) - When a young doctor (Hilary Swank) moves into an apartment, her landlord develops an increasingly unhealthy obsession with her... Another step in Hammer's return to active production, this is more akin to their earlier "women-in-peril" thriller cycle, although it ultimately doesn't have any real Hammer feel to it. Still, it's not without interest, and it was nice to see Christopher Lee back in the fold, albeit with little screen time.

01:05: Shadow Of The Vampire (2000) - A very liberal dramatisation of the making of FW Murnau's 1922 silent classic Nosferatu. In this particular version of events, John Malkovich portrays Murnau as a ruthless film maker, determined to get his movie made the way he wants it at all costs, going so far as to hire a genuine vampire as the lead! Willem Dafoe gives an amusing yet also quite moving portrayal of star player Max Schreck. An endearing oddity, and a nice way to round off this season.

So, lots to enjoy. I implore all UK horror fans to support these screenings - if the ratings are good, then who knows? We might just nudge someone at BBC2 into bringing back late night horror movies as a regular thing.

After all - a good horror movie is for life, not just for Christmas...

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