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It...may be a good reason for staying in with the TV


The best of the movies coming to your telly (from Oct 24), as selected by JOHN GORE, the founder of StokeScreen Film Club.

Welcome to the Halloween edition and half term issue – always a curious combination, in my mind. So, there are abundant horror movies with which to entertain the kids and ourselves. There is a spectrum which stretches from the visceral to the eerie and other worldly, all of which is in evidence in what’s on offer this week.

At, what I assume to be the more graphic end of the scale is It (ITV2, 21.00, Fri, 30 Oct). I have not seen it but it comes highly recommended by those with a lust for such things. It (pictured above) was first made for TV back in the 70s and then remade three years ago. It is adapted from a story by Stephen King (The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption) and involves a group of alienated school kids and a malignant spirit in the shape of a clown. I do not believe that he gets elected but it is just as scary a prospect.

The Brood (Horror, 22.35, Sat, 24 Oct) is an early outing for David Cronenberg, who has done more than most to explore body horror and the idea of the demon within us all. Here it begins with a man’s concern about the treatment his wife is receiving from an ‘unconventional’ psychiatrist. Unexplained bruises and injuries on his daughter and attacks on his parents by feral children lead him to question if these unexplained events are related to the treatment.

Juan of the Dead (Film 4, 01.40, Sat, 1 Nov) is a Cuban zombie movie (when did we last see one of those?) where a couple of under-productive workers (slackers) find themselves taking a stand against an army of the living dead which the government has defined as dissidents. (Hmm. Satire perhaps?)

Without any question, Train to Busan (Film 4, 23.20, Fri, 30 Nov) is satirical and a fascinating critique of contemporary society. A motley selection of travellers find themselves on a train bound for the south of Korea, trying to evade the horde of flesh eating zombies that are also aboard. Yes, it is a zombie movie, yes, it is a train-based disaster movie, but this is one of the best works of pandemic metaphor I have seen. It throws up questions about valuing the individual over community and the priorities of business over care for the vulnerable. It is Korean and beautifully filmed with a characteristic stoical sense of humour, where things are desperate, but not serious.

There is far less blood in evidence in the British chiller, The Witch (Channel 4, 00.15, Sat, 1 Nov), which is an engrossing tale of evil spirits and possession among the settlers of a remote homestead in 1630s' New England. Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie lead the cast. Initially unsettling, the film gradually unravels so that the lines between reality and the imagination become indistinct.

The Descent (Film 4, 01.35, Thu, 29 Oct) is another fascinating piece of storytelling which transcends the horror genre. A group of women go potholing and encounter monstrous and hostile creatures. This is far removed from the ‘damsel in distress’ horror. These are feisty and determined women who give as good as they get in countering the threats, both real and metaphorical.

The Awakening (BBC 2, 00.45, Sat, 1 Nov) is more genteel. Set in the years after the First World War, Florence (Rebecca Hall) works exposing fraudulent mediums who claim to put the bereaved in touch with their lost loved ones. She is invited to Cumbria, to a boarding school which is said to be haunted. What she encounters there, challenges her world view. This is closer to the traditional ghost story, or something akin to the work of Daphne du Maurier.

As an antidote to all this unsettling activity, you may prefer to relax into the world of Vladislav, Deacon and Viago, vampires about town in What We Do in the Shadows (BBC 2, 00.30, BST, Sun, 25 Oct) which spawned the TV comedy series of the same name. This earlier iteration finds the world weary un-dead struggling to adjust to life in the 21st century. Written and directed by Flight of the Concords’ Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi (director of Jo Jo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilder People) it exudes warmth and delightful eccentricity.

If your taste for the gothic remains un-sated, you should also look out for the emerging Tim Burton season. The Corpse Bride (ITV 2, 13.20, Sun, 25 Oct) which is a light-hearted view of marriage and the afterlife. There is also the rather surreal Big Eyes (Channel 4, 02.15, Thu, 29 Oct), based on the true story of artist Margaret Keane and her struggle to establish her rights to her own work.

Meanwhile, moving away from shadows and ghosties and ghoulies, we have a brace of Brits and a Chilean modern classic. Apostasy (BBC 2, 22.00, Sat, 24 Oct) is written and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo from personal experience as a Jehovah’s Witness who sees his sister shunned by community and family for transgressing the religious code. This starts his own questioning of faith and the directives of his religion. It is passionate, arresting stuff that will take you to places you have probably never been.

Loving (BBC 2, 22.00, Sun, 25 Oct) is a movie about a classic American civil rights case from the 1950s. Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed-race couple were refused the right to marry in Virginia because of anti-miscegenation laws. They moved to a northern state, married, returned home and were not allowed to live together because of the same legislation. Their struggle continued through the 1960s until a Supreme Court ruling in 1967. British actors Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the Lovings in this, a further contribution to Black History month programming.

Film of the week and one which has been on the StokeScreen wishlist for a while is A Fantastic Woman (Channel 4, 01.20, BST, Sun, 25 Oct). Marina is a transgender waitress and nightclub singer who is devastated by the death of her boyfriend. This is about personal loss and transition but also about sexual politics not just in Chile but around the world. It is the most insightful film about transgender life choices and changes that I have seen. Director Sebastién Lelio, who has also made Disobedience and Gloria/Gloria Bell, is an acute and sensitive director who seems to specialise in exploring women’s stories in ways that make the male of our species (well, me, anyway) think more broadly about women’s issues.

If your fancy is for classic British comedy, then we have the classic Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers (Film 4, 02.35, Sat, 24 Oct) with Alec Guinness using his wiles and charm to con ‘little old ladies’ out of their fortunes. Michael Redgrave is the habitual criminal who has to find plausible excuses for his son to explain his frequent absences ‘at her majesty’s pleasure’ in Law and Disorder (Talking Pictures TV, 16.25, Mon, 26 Oct). Classic Will Hay comedy The Goose Steps Out (BBC 2, 07.35, Sun, 25 Oct) gets an airing. A classic piece of wartime propaganda, this is a satire of Nazism by one of the biggest British stars of the era. Some of it is still quite funny.

Talking Pictures is also screening the 1974 adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (TPTV, 21.40, Sat, 24 Oct), a reflection on the rich and privileged of the 1920s with Robert Redford, golden hued cinematography and fashion influencing wardrobes in the days before YouTube.

As ever, it is always good to hear back from you, so please put your thoughts down and send them to us at Stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com Facebook: StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk

Winner!