The week’s TV movies: Brad Pitt, Lily James, Jodie Whittaker, Poltergeists, Superheroes and Zombies


On Saturday

BBC Two, Poltergeist, 11:10 p.m.

It’s no wonder that Poltergeist is considered one of the classic horror films with an ingredient list that includes jump scares, scary clown toys, children at risk and haunted TVs – and no surprise that it continues to impact 1980s screenwriters and filmmakers. Stranger Things fans who haven’t seen the movie should rejoice, as it’s a strong influence on the Netflix smash of the Duffer brothers, and mystery and tragedy shroud both the production and aftermath.

The titular poltergeist haunts the home of the Freeling family, who recently moved into a new building in the Cuesta Verde suburban neighborhood of California. Father Steven (Craig T. Nelson) is a salesman for the home building and selling business, and in the 1980s his wife Diane (JoBeth Williams) was called a housewife.

Trouble starts when Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke), the youngest of their three children, begins talking to the static TV and then makes the surprising comment, “They’re here.” Who “they” are finally becomes apparent, but not before odd things begin to happen in the house. Without being questioned, spoons bend, chairs shift around the floor, or pile up on the kitchen table. At first, it’s all puzzling fun, but when Carol Anne gets pulled into her toy closet through a door, the danger begins. In a team of parapsychologists who use lights and cameras, the Freelings call to try and film some kind of ghostly presence, but when medium Tangina Barrons (the great Zelda Rubinstein) arrives to help the Freelings track down Carol Anne’s abductor, things really come to mind.

The film is directed by Tobe Hooper, the man behind the classic 1974 shocker The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the horrific 1979 miniseries Salem’s Lot, an adaptation of the Stephen King book, written and produced by Steven Spielberg. Originally, Spielberg wanted to direct the film himself and considered Poltergeist a loose sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but while filming E.T., a clause in his Universal Pictures contract prohibited him from producing another film. That’s the official edition, at least. In any event, Hooper’s name is on the movie poster, while Spielberg actually directed the movie, according to Hollywood legend. Whoever you attribute the movie to, it’s great for Hallowe’en, but not without its tragic side: only a few months after the release of the movie in 1982, her partner killed one of the young actresses, and another died six years later. The so-called “Curse of the Poltergeist” was born when two members of the 1986 sequel also disappeared.

On Sunday

BBC Four, Happy End, 10:20 p.m.

Another impeccable portrait of a dysfunctional Happy End family, whose script was written in French and English, is produced by German Oscar winner Michael Haneke. The glamorous owner of a construction company in Calais, Anne Laurent (Isabelle Huppert), has to juggle the business demands with her family’s obligations. With her ailing father Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), her hard-drinking son Pierre (Franz Rogowski), her brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) and his wife Anais Anais, she lives in an opulent villa (Laura Verlinden). One of the workers was critically injured by the collapse of a wall at one of Anne’s building sites. Thomas decides to take care of his estranged teenage daughter, Eve, in the face of this chaos (Fantine Harduin).

About Monday

The Act for Girls, BBC 2, 9 p.m.

At the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Virtuous Madam Justice Maye (Emma Thompson) is a slave to the law. She must now deal with the urgent case of Adam Henry, a 17-year-old leukemia survivor (Fionn Whitehead). The boy and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses (Ben Chaplin, Eileen Walsh) and it goes against their values to allow blood. Adam will die without a transfusion, and senior staff at the hospital are worried that Adam will be affected by his parents. Supported by her challenging employee Nigel (Jason Watkins), while attempting to revive her marriage to husband Jack, Fiona must make her decision (Stanley Tucci). The film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s 2014 book, The Children Act, with a heartbreaking performance from Thompson, is an insightful and sensitively treated drama.

On Tuesday

X-Men: Film4, Apocalypse, 9:00 p.m.

Ten years have passed since the X-Men: Days of Possible Past cataclysmic occurrences, in which Logan (Hugh Jackman) travels back to 1973 to contact the young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (James McAvoy) (Michael Fassbender)


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