Films of the Week

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FILM OF THE WEEK: The Thing, ITV4, Saturday April 13, 12am

1982 was quite a year for science fiction fans, what with the release of Blade Runner, Tron and Steven Spielberg’s ET (also on ITV2 this day at 6pm). It was the latter, with its family-friendly depiction of alien life visiting Earth, that is thought to have scuppered The Thing’s chances at the box office. Consider that North American audiences were hungry for optimism after the strains of the Vietnam War and it is perhaps easier to understand why.

In The Thing, the alien life that visits our planet has little interest in making any friends. Instead, its arrival at a remote Antarctic research station populated by a handful of American scientists brings only mistrust and an unnerving sense of paranoia. This is ratcheted up at the hands of masterly director John Carpenter, whose use of the camera lingering in empty spaces had already been put to such threatening effect in Halloween and The Fog.

Rarely has a film looked as shiveringly cold as this, with genuine icicles growing on star Kurt Russell’s beard as his situation begins to deteriorate (certain scenes were shot in an actual storage freezer). And thanks to its twisted effects, body horror has never been so startling. If you saw 2011’s awful prequel, cast it from your mind and enjoy one of the finest suspense movies ever made.

Set the recorder for:

Evil Dead 2, Film 4, Friday April 12, 11:20pm

As the remake of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead hits the cinema screens this weekend, it is worth noting that, effectively, it has already been remade rather brilliantly by Raimi himself in Evil Dead 2. Using hyperkinetic camerawork and over-the-top gore to combine horror with black comedy, it made a cult figure of actor Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw-limbed character Ash. So much so, in fact, that Raimi used a Campbell cameo to reference Evil Dead 2 in the second
installment of his Spiderman franchise.

Mean Streets, BBC Two, Saturday April 13, 12:10am

Although this was his third feature film, it in Mean Streets that Martin Scorsese found his forte and announced himself as a talent to be reckoned with. The tale of two small time hoodlums hustling in New York’s Little Italy, it was also the first time Scorsese teamed up with the then unheralded Robert De Niro. Together, their partnership would go on to give us classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.

Silent Running, Film 4 Saturday April 13, 4:50pm

Those who follow top film critic Mark Kermode may have heard him rank Silent Running above fellow seminal sci-fi 2001 and declare it his second favourite film of all time. It was also the inspiration for Disney Pixar’s wonderful WALL·E and Duncan Jones’ marvellous Moon. Have a box of tissues at the ready though – this is one of the saddest films set in space you will see.

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