Horror Channel is the only channel solely dedicated to broadcasting genre films, specifically horror and sci-fi, in the UK, Ireland and Italy. As such it would be reasonable to expect that their Halloween schedule would be something special. What you may not have been expected was how eclectic and exciting the line-up would be. Accepted classics are screening alongside lesser-known films, with some premieres of exciting features that may have passed you by.
The programming runs right the way through October, with an early showing of what is one of the greatest horror films of all time; Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Know. This brooding, haunting adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier short story requires little introduction; but for many people, it could have been a while since their last sitting, so is one worth revisiting. Another film worthy of the modern classic moniker is John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. This end-of-the-world horror from the legendary director is perhaps one of his most overlooked films, but is one that more than most showcases Carpenter’s unique blend of music and terror.
Most interestingly though are a couple of films very few will have seen. Blair Erickson’s Banshee Chapter is a terrifying, jump-out-of-your-seat horror film, and one that has not yet received the audience it deserves. Produced by Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, It’s full of familiar genre references, and in some cases even scenes you may have seen before, but it’s the skill with which these are woven together that sets this film apart. A simple premise of an aspiring journalist joining forces with a Hunter S. Thompson/Truman Capote-esque figure to uncover government experimentation is pretty formulaic too but as they delve deeper into the mystery the terror increases and their own sanity comes under question. The jump scares are at times too predictable and yet are hugely effective, and there is one particular scene set in a basement that is so tense as to make drawing breath difficult.
With convincing performances throughout, and with a terrifically paranoid turn from the legendary Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill himself!) Banshee Chapter is a film that will linger long in the memory, just make sure you watch it in the dark.
At the other end of the horror spectrum is the brooding drama Dark Summer, based around a young man placed under house arrest for his involvement in a cyber-crime. As he struggles with his incarceration, he begins to suffer visions which become increasingly malevolent. There is a palpable discomfort generated by Paul Solet’s intrusive direction, with a real sense of claustrophobic creepiness amidst the fear of what may or may not be haunting young Daniel. Solet has spoken about his vision for the film;
“Firstly he’s isolated, which alone could do it and there have been a number of horror movies where isolation has provided a very specific point of view. In addition to that, though, he has all these other things going on. There’s the question about his medication; there’s a deep love for a woman that was never reciprocated and then there’s this weird emerald green presence that you never know if it’s him cracking up or some kind of supernatural presence.”
At the centre of Dark Summer is a stunning, dysfunctional performance from Keir Gilchrist as the troubled Daniel. Rarely will you see such a potentially awkward role inhabited with such conviction, and it is much to the credit of Solet that he has drawn such an affecting performance from his young lead. As with Banshee Chapter, there is a superb supporting turn, this time from the incomparable Peter Stormare, who revels in the mystery of his character as Daniel’s anarchic parole officer who may or may not be a positive influence.
With stylish portent that is hard to categorise Dark Summer subtly preys on an audience’s inherent fears, and which simply adds to the shocking horror later in the film.
As the two films described above demonstrate, the real joy of any channel’s seasonal programming is in the discovery of something new. Cassadaga is another certainly worth checking out, as a deaf woman’s connection with a murdered young woman leads to the discovery of a serial killer who makes marionette dolls out of his victims. Hauntingly creepy in places, this micro-budget film from director Anthony DiBlasi is a perfect example of how to create a foreboding atmosphere through clever camera work and impressive design. If found footage is to your taste, then Grave Encounters is a credible example. Although formulaic in its premise, as a ghost hunting reality television crew lock themselves in an apparently haunted mental asylum, the scares are bold, brash and unavoidable, even for the toughest cynic of the format. You may know what’s coming, but you’ll still kick yourself for falling for it! This is a film that does exactly what it sets out to do, however basic its horror beats are.
With more than 20 new and classic films added to Horror Channel’s schedule in the build up to Halloween you should think of this as your own personal horror film festival, brought direct to your living room. There’s no need to venture out in the cold to the local cinema, no payment is necessary and there will never be a queue at the toilets. Take our advice; get in some beer, wine or creepy cocktail of choice, stock up with a few of your favourite scary snacks and turn out the lights. If nothing else, you have the chance to watch an old favourite such as Don’t Look Now or Prince of Darkness. The likelihood is you’ll discover something entirely new, a film you may never even have heard of such as Banshee Chapter or Dark Summer, and one that may make you hide behind the nearest cushion or leave you with an unshakeable sense of unease.
Whatever your preference there will be something of interest in the Halloween line-up from Horror Channel. Take a chance and seek out something new and different from the films above. Remember, horror is healthy, being scared is good for you, and nightmares never last long…
For more information on HORROR CHANNEL’S HAUNTED HALLOWEEN season, check out the website horrorchannel.co.uk.