week's best films
free to air
Shaun of the Dead (MA15+) Sunday, 9.30pm, Eleven Kon-Tiki (M) Saturday, 8.30pm, SBS Foxy Brown (MA15+) Saturday, 11.10pm, SBS Two
The closer it is to Halloween, the greater the number of horror films airing across the viewing spectrum.
One of the freshest recent wrinkles on the genre is director Edgar Wright’s hyperactive, very funny and pivotal 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (Sunday, 9.30pm, Eleven). Everyman slacker Simon Pegg plays the put-upon hero, frantically trying to save his friends and family from the undead in modern London.
From 1954 to 1979, American International Pictures was the gold standard of exploitation films, aiming its wares squarely at the burgeoning new teenage market. From the youth rebellion movies of the 1950s, to the beach pictures and Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the 60s and horror of the 70s, AIP was the hothouse for such upcoming talent as Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.
By the early 70s, AIP had identified a new niche of young urban African Americans, and Blaxploitation was born. A handy quadruple feature serves as a primer for the genre in the form of the horror landmark Blacula (Saturday, 9.30pm, SBS Two), the action double feature of actor Pam Grier, Foxy Brown (Saturday, 11.10pm, SBS Two) and Coffy (Saturday, 12.50am), and the climactic airing of the relatively obscure yet highly cherished voodoo zombie queen saga Sugar Hill (Saturday, 2.25am, SBS Two).
These films continue to influence directors today. Quentin Tarantino was inspired by the proactive, assertive lead character in the Grier films to build his best film to date, Jackie Brown, as a showcase to the actor.
Though perhaps not quite as affecting as the book on which it is based, the largely gore-free looming tension and Queensland locations (substituting for Mexico) are reason enough to see the 2008 horror thriller The Ruins (Monday, 8.30pm, SBS Two).
Two young couples stumble across a Mayan ruin cursed by killer vines. Scott Smith adapted his own novel; his earlier book A Simple Plan was made into a fine 1998 thriller by director Sam Raimi.
Cleansing the palate of genre aftertaste, one of the most rousing recent high seas adventures is the 2012 British-Norwegian-Danish-German coproduction Kon-Tiki (Saturday, 8.30pm, SBS).
This impeccably crafted film is based on anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 journey across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft with five mates in tow to prove Polynesians arrived from the Americas.
The 1950 documentary he made about the journey won an Oscar, and here directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg weave fantastical yet discrete visual effects into the human drama to recreate the epic drama of one explorer and his unshakable vision.