If you’re further up the age scale than my thirty-two years you’ll remember a time when nothing happened on Halloween. Despite being a celebration as old as Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and the rest October 31st was a wasted opportunity. It was super frustrating for the film fan, the one day of the year when a library of genres and sub-genres were going to waste, horror and thriller films stuck on the shelf with nary a pumpkin or polystyrene tombstone in sight.
There was a turning point though. In 1992 the BBC took a gamble on a prime time television "play” called Ghostwatch. This brilliant mockumentary caused the sort of public stir not seen since Orson Welles scared America shitless with his War of the Worlds radio play. Once the brouhaha had died down and people had time to change their underwear, businesses realised that there was money to be made from marketing scary offerings on or around the 31st October. As the nineties rolled on the UK looked Stateside to see how our American cousins did things and started promoting the sort of Halloween fare fans of the 31st could only dream about previously. It’s not quite the united front that Christmas is; some television channels and cinemas plough on as if Halloween doesn’t even exist. But we’re a long way from the barren days of pre ’92.
So to get the best out of next week’s All Hallows Eve celebrations FilmsFilmsFilms have been doing their homework. We’ve contacted cinemas, badgered television networks, and scoured the land so you can make sure your Halloween goes off with a scream. Details will be updated as and when we receive replies:
So far Channel 5 wins the gold medal for effort, with a schedule rammed full with Halloween themed delights in the run-up to the 31st. Things kick off on Saturday 26th with the Stephen King drama Bag of Bones (2011) at 21:00. Sunday 27th October sees the good folks at Five really spoiling us with a whole day devoted to scary televisual delights:
13:40 The Ghost of Greville Lodge (2000)
15:30 The Canterville Ghost (1986)
17:15 Monster House (2006)
18:55 Ghostbusters (1984)
21:00 Scream 4 (2011) – network premiere
23:10 Scream: The True Story – a brand new documentary looking at the inspiration behind the movie franchise
00:05 The Wicker Man (2006)
If this wasn’t enough 5* will be dedicating the nine o’clock weeknight movie slot to scary films throughout Halloween week, offering Wind Chill (2007), Jeepers Creepers (2001), Drag Me To Hell (2009), Halloween 2 (2009) and Scream 4 (2011). Each film will be followed by an episode of the by the underrated television drama Fear Itself. Elsewhere during the week viewers can enjoy Final Destination (2000), while the 30th and 31st will offer up some repeats of those films offered over the weekend. All in all a superb effort.
Things look less inspiring over at Channel 4. Unless you find River Cottage or Grand Designs particularly bone chilling you’re going to be sorely disappointed on the 31st. Film Four have made a little effort with The Fourth Kind (2009) up for grabs at 21:00, but see out the night with the oddly depressing Antichrist (2009). Buried at 23:00 on More 4 is the intriguing documentary A Very British Witchcraft, for those wanting to get in touch with their Wicca side.
In responding ITV at least held their hands up and admitted that as a broadcaster they didn't tend to offer that much Halloween related fare. Having said that, they are screening House of Wax (2005) at 11:00 on 28th October and 10:50 on 1st November, Hannibal (2001) at 10:50 on 30th October and Paranormal Activity (2007) on 1st November.
Sky aren't offering up much for their poorer subscribers, with the standard channels a Halloween free zone this year. However, for those who have forked out for the Sky Movie channels there's a smorgasbord of delights up for grabs. As well as a Family Frights On Demand Box Set (which inclues the UK premiere of new mini adventure Toy Story Of Terror, and Monsters Inc, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow, Spooky Buddies, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hotel Transylvania, The Haunted Mansion, and Ghostbusters II) Sky's Movie channels have been set aside all during Halloween week for a celebration of all things thriller and horror. Movies offered include Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dark Shadows, Underworld: Awakening, Vamp U, Fright Night (1985 and 2011), The Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Retribution, Dawn of the Dead, REC, Creepshow, The Exorcist, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Devil Inside, The Omen (1976), The Devil's Advocate, Jaws, Jaws: The Revenge, The Thing (2011), Piranha DD, Shark Night, The Fly (1958 an 1986), The Fly II, Paranormal Activity 4, The Monster Squad, Vampire In Brooklyn, and Beetlejuice. Phew!
Last and certainly least is the BBC, the one broadcaster who provide content via the money from your own pocket. As was the case last year, across all four of the BBC's channels there isn't one programme or film with even the slightest whiff of Halloween. Instead we have the usual fare (American Dad, Question Time, Eastenders, Arena) that can be seen any other day of the year. Why the BBC flood the schedules throughout Decemeber with Christmas programming but can't even spare a couple of hours late night for one horror film is a joke. For all the good it will do we at FilmsFilmsFilms have voiced our displeasure; we'll update you when the usual non-commital reply is received.
Despite being the biggest cinema chain in the country Odeon have nothing planned for the 31st other than the odd showing of Woman In Black (2012) and Insidious (2010). Oscar Deutsch is not amused. It doesn’t help that the new listings for October have completely failed to offer anything in the way of new scary cinema other than the Kimberly Peirce directed remake of Carrie, which is already receiving some decidedly wonky reviews.
Cineworld are offering special showings at select local cinemas and advised checking out the local listings. Digging further I looked at my local theatre and was pleased to find a showing of Wes Craven's classic A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) on 31st October, along with The Hauning In Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013). Your local Cineworld may be offering similar delights, so check out the listings.
The Prince Charles Cinema in London offers no half measures, serving up a wealth of classic horror films for the Halloween season. Throughout October they have been running screenings, double headers and movie marathons all building up to the big day. Showings from Saturday 26th onwards include An American Werewolf In London (1981), The Mist (2007) and The Fog (1980) double header, The Exorcist (1973), They Live (1988), and The Eye (2008). For Halloween night itself PCC offer up a sing-a-long Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), and two showings of the John Carpenter classic Halloween (1978).
Elsewhere, Reel Cinemas are joining the party by offering a one-off showing of The National Theatre’s Frankenstein with man-of-the-moment Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller on the 31st at their Widnes cinema. Scott Cinemas are also offering showings at their Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, and Barnstaple locations. The Portobello Pop-Up Cinema in London are going old school with screenings of A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Halloween (1978) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) along with an evening of traditional Halloween fun between the 25th and 27th October.
The Big Smoke keeps the events rolling at various venues around the city. At the Union Chapel Islington a charity project to raise money for restoration of their organ (musical not anatomical) is offering a special showing of The Thing (1982); an unseasonal snowy spell might make this the hottest ticket in town. St. John’s Church Notting Hill are presenting a special church organ accompanied screening of the original Phantom of the Opera (1925). The Pop-Up Screens Halloween Programme at St James Church in West Hampstead will be showing Hellraiser (1987), Saw (2004), Scream (1996), and Beetlejuice (1988) and between the 31st October and 3rd November.
Replies from the remaining big hitters in cinema are still awaited. Watch this space...