week's best films

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Ed­die Cock­rell

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.

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