5 things to watch this weekend – 27 to 29 October

A Lovecraftian chiller and a film Guillermo del Toro described as “a gut-punch of a masterpiece” are among our viewing recommendations for Halloween weekend.

27 October 2023

By Matthew Thrift

Peeping Tom (1960)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

“It’s a long time since a film disgusted me as much as Peeping Tom,” read the Observer review of Michael Powell’s notorious film maudit in the spring of 1960. The Tribune went one further: “The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer.” It was the film that effectively ended the career of one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers; a psychosexual thriller about a film-obsessed loner who kills women with his camera. It was Martin Scorsese who rescued Peeping Tom – and Powell’s reputation – from oblivion, championing the film as a subversive masterpiece “about the dangers of cinema… the compulsion of gazing.” Powell’s sordid, Eastmancolor vision of 60s London has never looked as good as it does in this stunning 4K restoration.

The Killer (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Three years after dividing critical opinion with Mank (2020), his black-and-white opus about the making of Citizen Kane (1941), David Fincher is back to what he does best: applying some assiduous stylistic muscle to well-worn genre tropes. The Killer sees him reteaming with Seven (1995) screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker for a hyper-contemporary tale of a meticulous hitman dealing with the fallout of a job gone awry. Michael Fassbender is cool-as-ice as the film’s sociopathic lead, while Tilda Swinton lends bristling support. But Fincher is the real star here, keeping tensions on a rolling simmer for the entirety of the film’s runtime. It’s a methodical procedural about the limits of control that barely breaks a sweat – at least until a mid-film fight that can already lay claim to being one of cinema’s great punch-ups.

The Unknown (1927)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray and DVD

The Unknown (1927)

Criterion have put out a doozy of a release this week, collecting three films by the great pre-Code carnival barker Tod Browning. His 1932 classic Freaks – which, nearly a century later has lost none of its inflammatory power – might be the set’s hero title, but this lesser-seen elder sibling is every bit its equal. Lon Chaney eschews his usual prosthetics to play ‘Alonzo the Armless Wonder’, a circus worker adept at lobbing knives at his crush (an impossibly young Joan Crawford) with his feet. It’s a propulsive story of unrequited love and fiendish revenge that builds to one of the most astonishing climaxes in silent cinema. Guillermo del Toro recently called it “a gut punch of a masterpiece”, adding, “the less you know about it, the better”.

Messiah of Evil (1974)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Messiah of Evil (1974)

With Halloween almost upon us, there are enough horror releases this week to keep even the most demanding genre fans occupied. Arrow Video has put out a beautiful box set of the first four Hellraiser movies in 4K, while David Gordon Green’s recent Exorcist reboot has already made an appearance as a premium digital rental. But if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track, Radiance Films have your back with this magnificent Lovecraftian chiller. Directed by married duo Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz – best known for writing American Graffiti (1973) and the second Indiana Jones film – Messiah of Evil is an unsung jewel of 70s horror, long unavailable on home video. A singular blend of oneiric atmospherics à la Carnival of Souls (1962), Romero-style zombie nihilism and prime-Argento expressionism, the film’s set-pieces slay, but it’s the pervasive dread that reverberates long after the credits have rolled.

Designing Woman (1957)

Where’s it on? Saturday 28 October, 13:20, BBC Two

Designing Woman (1957)

For those without the stomach for spooky season chills, BBC Two is screening a lesser-seen romantic comedy from the great Vincente Minnelli this Saturday afternoon. Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall star respectively as a sports writer and fashion designer who shack up following an impulsive shotgun wedding. Unusually for Minnelli, who tended to survey the foibles of the middle classes, Designing Woman takes to high society Manhattan to playfully examine the tensions between high and low culture – personified in Bacall’s refined theatre set and Peck’s gaggle of lowlifes and palookas. The banter comes thick and fast (earning an Oscar for best screenplay), while Minnelli foregrounds the artifice with various fourth-wall breaks and a climactic danced fight sequence courtesy of choreographer Jack Cole. Shot in Metrocolor CinemaScope, it sure is a looker, too.

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