LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Kim Newman looks to the future and reports on Horror's up and coming Classic Sci-Fi Weekend
By Kim Newman, Monday 6th April 2020
The 1950s are remembered as the rock 'n' roll years - Bill Haley and Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry - but also as the dawn of the atomic era, the height of the cold war, and the decade when science fiction movies reigned. A fad for futuristic design meant cars sported sharkfins like Flash Gordon's spaceship, and refrigerators were streamlined behemoths like the lumbering robots of pulp magazines. It was an uneasy, nervous decade - caught between optimism and terror, envisioning future homes full of gleaming labour-saving devices but also beasts from outer space or the dawn of time rampaging across the land, leaving radioactive debris in their wake. At the end of the classic The Thing From Another World (1951), humanity was told to 'watch the skies'... and so, dutifully, we did, though threats were as likely to come from beneath the sea, the bowels of the Earth, the house next door, or our own basement.
Every studio made science fiction films but seemed a bit embarrassed by such kid stuff. Mostly, it was down to B units at Universal-International or Columbia, or the enterprising likes of Roger Corman and Britain's Hammer Films. A few colour spectacles - Forbidden Planet, This Island Earth, The War of the Worlds - came along, but sci-fi was mostly in greyscale black and white, with lesser-known actors upstaged by monsters made by mad geniuses like Ray Harryhausen, and brisk, clipped (sometimes unintentionally hilarious) dialogue between staunch military men, glamour girls in lab coats and hard-pressed researchers who have crazy monster-fighting ideas that 'just might work'.
These films that filled the imaginations of kids who grew up to be Stephen King, Stephen Spielberg, Tim Burton, Joe Dante and George Lucas - who have channelled their themes and images into their own work, and ensured the style of 1950s sci-fi cinema is now that of the summer tentpole blockbuster. The resources a studio would once have given to Cecil B. DeMille to part the Red Sea or Mike Todd to go round the world in 80 days are now available to grown-up boys who were rapt by Earth vs the Flying Saucers, The Incredible Shrinking Man or - even - The Giant Claw. These apocalyptic visions are remounted in an orgy of CGI pixels as tentacled creatures menace the biggest stars on the planet. Yet the originals have something that can't be reproduced, reimagined or bettered. These are films held in enormous affection but offer much more than nostalgia for vanished drive-in double bills or teatime-after-school telly. There's still the chill.
So, keep watching the skies... indeed, keep watching TV as Horror Channel presents its Classic Sci-Fi Weekend on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th April.
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) H-Bomb tests raise a giant octopus from the depths. It attacks ships... then heads for San Francisco to sweep Fisherman's Wharf with mighty tentacles and constrict the Golden Gate Bridge to pieces. This has gained a certain notoriety thanks to special effects genius Ray Harryhausen's admission that Columbia's tight budgeting meant that he had to cut back on tentacles - and so the monster is actually a six-limbed 'sexapus', though Harryhausen shoots its scenes so cannily that no one would ever have noticed if he didn't own up. The human plot is stiff and strange, with chauvinist submarine skipper Kenneth Tobey leching after pin-up marine biologist Faith Domergue and proving something of a wimp - he spends the finale unconscious on the seabed while someone else faces the beast. Its scenes of devastation-by-cephalopod are still impressive.
Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956) Flying saucers, brilliantly animated by Ray Harryhausen, attack the Earth. Stubby, helmeted aliens sometimes emerge from their humming ships and zap people with death-rays, but the sleek, soulless saucers are the main attraction - crashing into Washington landmarks in the impressive, influential finale. Notionally based on a non-fiction bestseller, the film was among the first to dramatise key elements of UFO lore - 'foo lights', saucer flybys startling airline pilots, alien abduction and experiments on humans, 'missing time'. But the film is essentially glorious pulp, with eerie aliens, stalwart scientists, exciting battles and enjoyable blustering from a B stalwarts tossing off tongue-in-cheek dialogue ('when an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capital, we don't greet it with tea and cookies!').
The Giant Claw (1957) Famously skinflint producer Sam Katzman finally got fed up with the painstaking, slow and (most of all) expensive artistry of Ray Harryhausen and looked around for a more affordable effects option - with results that were disastrous in the short term, but now make for a film more fondly regarded than many a slicker, duller effort. Directed by Fred F. Sears, of Earth vs the Flying Saucers, and pretty much following the template of earlier monster movies, this has a giant bird from outer space ravage the Earth. The shoestring effects monster looks like a demented muppet, with its beaky snarl and google eyes, and is all the more hilarious for being intercut with actors who presumably thought they were playing against a Harryhausen-quality beastie and do their best to express utter terror.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Based on a novel by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone), directed by Jack Arnold (It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon) and benefiting from a healthy effects budget, this is among the simplest, most memorable science fiction films. Regular Joe, Grant Williams is exposed to mysterious dust which makes him shrink - at first, this just complicates his domestic situation (significantly, his wedding ring falls off) as he becomes a child-sized man trapped in his own house, but as he gets smaller the challenges get bigger and he finds himself battling his own pet cat and a basement spider, which both view him as a tasty morsel. It's an appealing, absurd premise - strikingly visualised - but one of the first sci-fi films to get poetic and psychedelic in its mind-warp of an ending.
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) Finally, it had dawned on Columbia that the star of their science fiction films was animator Ray Harryhausen - who was given a healthier budget, story input, an Italian location trip and more prominent billing for this creature feature. A spaceship crash-lands after a round trip to Venus, and an annoying Sicilian brat steals a gelatinous monster egg which he sells to a local zoologist so he can buy a cowboy hat. The egg hatches into one of Harryhausen's most inspired creations - a man-lizard who grows from tabletop size to colossus, and only causes devastation when attacked. Compared with the relatively brief appearances of the sexapus, the Venusian is onscreen a lot and is by far the film's most compelling character. The fact that, unlike King Kong, no human expresses admiration or sympathy for it makes this one of the chilliest, saddest monster rampages - we hope that kid enjoyed his cowboy hat after he was responsible for half Rome being flattened - but it's also undeniably spectacular, with the alien battling a pitchfork-wielding farmer, platoons of soldiers, and a brilliantly-animated elephant.
Related show tags: EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE GIANT CLAW, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, THIS ISLAND EARTH MORE FEATURES Devils, demons and the Occult...Horror Channel gets possessed in November
Posted on Thursday 15th October 2020
Saturday nights in November belong to the vice-like grip of Possessed Season on Horror Channel, with Channel premieres for Exorcist: The Beginning, the prequel to The Exorcist, starring Stellan Skarsgard as Father Merrin, the demon-beleaguered priest, and The Exorcist III, written and directed by William Peter Blatty. There is also a UK TV premiere for Chad Archibald's chilling occult fantasy The Heretics, and Scott Derrickson's supernatural chiller Deliver Us From Evil completes the devilish line-up.
Here's the full line-up:
The season begins on the 7th with Exorcist: The Beginning. Having abandoned his faith, Father Merrin joins an archaeological excavation in Kenya, where ...SHARE: READ MORE Grindhouse style revenge and spaced-out aliens. Day 5 of Grimmfest
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
The final day of Grimmfest 2020 holds five movies which will truly satisfy the horror needs of every genre fan out there.
Death Ranch from prolific film maker Charlie Steeds takes us right back to the days of Blaxploitation movies and ups the violence and gore to its limit. 1970s USA, Three African American siblings on the run from the police take refuge at an abandoned Tennessee Ranch, unaware their hideout is on the hunting grounds of a cannibalistic Ku Klux Klan cult...Trapped and tortured, the three must fight tooth and nail to escape alive and take down the bloodthirsty Klan. Incredibly strong and incredibly violent the film doesn't stray from its...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel's Stewart Bridle chats to the legendary director Mick Garris
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Today at Grimmfest, Mick Garris, who has been awarded the Horror Channel Grimmfest Lifetime Achievement Award will be taking part in a live Q&A. Earlier in the week he chatted to Horror's Channel Manager Stewart Bridle about his career.SHARE: READ MORE Robot or not? You have to decide! Day 4 of Grimmfest
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Another big day at Grimmfest 2020 with five more movies that are designed to intrigue and shock in equal measures.
First up is I Am Ren which takes the soul of Philip K. Dick and places it firmly into a living nightmare. A young woman goes into therapy after she starts to believe that she is an android. Is she having a breakdown, is she being gaslighted by an abusive husband, or is she really the synthetic wife and mother REN v.4.3? This film has the ability to keep you guessing throughout its duration. With bleak camerawork it mixes psychological horror with emotion perfectly.
One movie that's really making people talk is Rent-A-Pal from Jon Stevenson. 1990. Lonely bachelor David seeks e...SHARE: READ MORE Icons, Shamen and unexpected guests! More from Day 3 of Grimmfest
Posted on Friday 9th October 2020
Exclusive to pass holders, Grimmfest 2020 are hosting a Female Horror Icons Panel this evening. This event will consist of a short intro video and a live online Q&A with various female horror icons, including Pollyanna McIntosh, Caroline Williams, Adrienne Barbeau, Kelli Maroney, Natasha Halevi, Tiffany Schepsis and Krista Allen.
Back to the movies and following the Icons panel we have the UK premiere of Martin Guigui's The Unhealer. A botched faith healing bestows supernatural Shaman powers on a bullied teenager. When his lifelong tormentors pull a prank that kills someone he loves, he uses his powers for revenge and goes on a bloody rampage to settle the score. We've ...SHARE: READ MORE Deadly dogs, bar room tales and Lovecraftian madness. Day 3 of Grimmfest
Posted on Friday 9th October 2020
The first full day of Grimmfest 2020 is here and with it comes a prime selection of top shockers. The first part of the day has three movies which take often used tropes but gives them a smart and cool twist.
Ropes from director Jose Luis Montesinos is a movie that has plenty of tension thanks to cool direction. With the sorrow for her sister's death still very recent, Elena, a young quadriplegic, has retired to a country house along with her father. There she has the help of Athos, a Belgian shepherd specially trained to help her. But the creature who is supposed to be her best friend has contracted a strange disease... and has turned into her worst enemy. ...SHARE: READ MORE Just when you thought it was safe to go into the cornfields! Day 2 of Grimmfest
Posted on Thursday 8th October 2020
As we start to wind down for the weekend, we find Grimmfest beginning to shift gear and push forward with a trio of movies which will open your eyes as well as your minds!
First up it's The Special, a movie which combines body horror and humour to a perfectly balanced mix. Suspecting his wife of infidelity, Jerry is persuaded by his best friend to accompany him to a brothel to sample 'The Special', which proves to be a life changing experience in more ways than one. Because every pleasure has its price... Though a comedy at its heart, The Special has a lot say and does so in a very confrontational way.
Fans of movies with a social conscience will need to tune in f...SHARE: READ MORE Don't be alone, tune into Grimmfest 2020
Posted on Wednesday 7th October 2020
Well, Grimmfest 2020 has finally started and with it comes a double-bill of movies that will captivate and entertain in equal measure.
First up is Alone from director John Hyams, a man who has cut his directing teeth on TV shows such as Chicago Fire and Z Nation. The film concerns a recently widowed woman who is abducted by a cold-blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in. This is the sort of movie you need to start a festival with. Tense and wonderfully acted it's a stone-cold chiller that grabs the audience right from the opening shots.
Alone is followed by one of the finest...SHARE: READ MORE Grimmfest 2020 is go... at 11am.
Posted on Wednesday 7th October 2020
Although Grimmfest 2020 will be online for the first time ever, this hasn't stopped the festival from delivering some of the finest features around which celebrate the genre.
We will be delivering interviews and info from the festival as usual so look out for loads of interviews with cast and crew from the movies showing.
Today is all about Exclusive Pass Holder content. From 11am there's a selection of movies which really sum up the event and will be available throughout the festival period for full festival pass holders to enjoy.
Anonymous Animals is an unsettling and extreme Animal Rights movie whilst The Altruist is a an unforgettable excursion...SHARE: READ MORE Selected Horror Channel content now available on My5!
Posted on Thursday 1st October 2020
Horror Channel fans will be able to enjoy prime cuts from our scary schedule on My5 from October 1st!
Yes, when accessing the My5 on demand video catch up service you'll be able to view some of Horror's finest slices for free with a carefully curated collection each month for you to relish.
Highlights to look out for over the coming months are slasher classic Hatchet, Satanic shocker Demonic, twisted chills in Emelie, nerve-shattering thriller Road Games plus the acclaimed sci-fi series Andromeda.
My5 is available on Freeview, Freesat, NowTV and Roku boxes, Amazon Fire TV sticks, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Android TVs, Appl...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel to present a Halloween double-bill of Corin Hardy's The Hallow and Ante Novakovic's Fright Fest.
Posted on Tuesday 15th September 2020
October boasts eleven premieres on Horror Channel, including a hellish Halloween night double-bill of Corin Hardy's impressive Irish monster movie debut The Hallow and Ante Novakovic's rampant Halloween slasher Fright Fest. Both channel premieres will be broadcast on Saturday 31 October, at 9pm and 10.55pm respectively.
There are also four prime-time UK premieres: Demon chiller Firstborn, with Misfits star Antonia Laura Thomas, hashtag horror Selfie From Hell, the haunting, award-winning Echoes Of Fear and the pint-sized gold-digger is back in the sequel, Leprechaun Returns.
There are five further channel premieres: Pet, a twisted tale of obsession and ...SHARE: READ MORE Carpenter, King and Hodder usher in Horror Channel's September line-up of prime-time premieres
Posted on Thursday 20th August 2020
Carpenter, King and Kane Hodder... genre royalty ushers in Horror Channel's September line-up of prime-time premieres, including the UK TV premiere of outlandish Brit Zom Com Shed of the Dead, starring Ewen MacIntosh, Lauren Socha, Emily Booth, Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley, Michael Berryman and Brian Blessed, followed by the Channel premieres of hard-core space thriller John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, starring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham and Pam Grier, and A Good Marriage, a gripping psychological thriller based on the Stephen King novella.
There are also UK TV premieres for supernatural heist thriller The Vault, starring James Franco, and Blumhouse...SHARE: READ MORE Features Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
Saturday 31st October
Friday 6th November
Thursday 5th November