FILM OF THE WEEK: The Descent, 5*
Saturday November 9, 10pm
It’s fair to say that many horror films would flunk the Bechdel test (i.e. they don’t have at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.) Granted, there have are several notable exceptions: Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween films, for instance. But more often than not, women are reduced to a pair breasts teasing men into transgressive sexual acts that, as Wes Craven’s Scream so brilliantly satirised, usually end in a vicious stabbing.
The Descent passes the test with flying colours, given that almost all of its running time focuses on its six female characters. For those of us with a Y chromosome instantly imagining Sex And Slashing And The City, grow up – this is nerve-shredding horror of the highest order. No matter whether you’re male or female, both sexes will need to put their underwear through a particularly hot wash after this one.
The set-up is pleasingly simple. Six friends reunite for an outdoor activity-type holiday in the US and head into a local cave system for a spot of exploring. When things go wrong, Enter The Void-style, things look bad enough. As it turns out, that’s the least of their worries, as torch batteries fade and morale nose-dives. Without any spoilers, the inverted phrase ‘out of the fire and into the frying pan’ is a horrifically literal clue…
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
BBC Two, Saturday November 9, 11.05pm
It’s a shame that for the past half-decade Christian Bale has been stuck playing inexpressive bores like Batman and John Connor, given his undeniable range as an actor. Fortunately we get to see most of it in the little known Rescue Dawn, the true story of Dieter Dengler, an American pilot shot down and captured during the Vietnam War. Bale delivers one of his finest performances as Dengler, as he captures the fine line between bravery and madness that a prisoner of war can tread.
ITV3, Sunday November 10, 10pm
It seems incongruous that Clint Eastwood, such a prominent supporter of the increasingly right-wing US Republican Party, has made several films that rally the liberal cause with such gusto. Nevertheless, Changeling doesn’t so much highlight the terribly misogynistic treatment of women and institutional corruption that blights American history as it does shout it from the rooftops. Led by a tour de force performance from Angelina Jolie, this is a relentless powerful film that won’t fail to be leave every viewer feeling utterly outraged, especially when learning it is another true story.
BBC One, Wednesday November 13, 12:05pm
If you’ve watched any of the dance or talent shows that have cluttered TV schedules over the past few years, you’ve doubtless seen at least one act inspired by Bob Fosse’s Oscar-winning Cabaret. If so, it’s easy to suppose the film is a happy-go-lucky musical, which is to be grossly mistaken. Cabaret is actually much grittier, set in 1930s Germany as the Nazi Party rises to power, and although this detail is kept in the background, it’s never far from Cabaret’s clash between bohemian free-spirit and authoritarian order – all punctuated by some splendid show tune set-pieces.