Ben Wheatley  

British, challenging, interesting and unique film-maker. He makes movies that take place in a world of their own, with a subtly surreal logic. They often start in the real world, then unobtrusively shift into surrealism, or even into cryptic abstract explorations of human and social behaviour. Has an auteur's touch and a unique visual sense all his own. In between these strange experiments he also directs more conventional movies in a variety of genres including black comedies about criminals, dramas, Hollywood movies, etc.

Of Some Interest

Field in England, A  
Another intriguing head-scratcher from Ben Wheatley that lives in its own world. This B&W oddity is set in the English Civil War, where three soldiers and an alchemist escape the madness to seek an alehouse. But sorcery is afoot, and, after eating some mushrooms, they find themselves slaves for a strange Irish sorcerer who is pulled into the visible world via ropes and who promptly forces them to seek treasures in the field. The banter between the soldiers is part elegant old English, part bawdy silliness, and the attitude as a whole is quite laid-back in an absurd way, combined with folk superstitions and dry humor, all of which creates a unique atmosphere. They also frequently freeze in classic poses to create a live tableau. Tensions escalate, and more mushrooms are taken, leading to a violent and psychedelic climax. This may leave you unsure of what you just watched, but it is a fascinating experience that takes you to another time and place.

Based on a cult J.G. Ballard novel. Wheatley delivers another subtly surreal movie with its own logic, this one much less cryptic than his previous entries. The high-rise is one of a set of buildings planned by an eccentric and ambitious architect, who sees it as a catalyst for social change. Each tenant has been carefully chosen as a representative in his field of interest or career, and the tenants are soon organized into social classes at the appropriate floor of the building, with an outrageously rich complex, complete with extensive gardens and horse, built on the roof for the architect (Irons). A young doctor is the protagonist, pursued by the higher ranks as a plaything then exiled to the lower ranks as the social behaviour breaks down amidst jealousy and base human behaviour. The buildings and this movie obviously serve as a parable, the buildings representing a mini-society and its decline. Social classes rise and fall, a revolution breaks out, class struggle, then complete mayhem, debauchery, orgies, violence and murder.

In the Earth  
Wheatley revisits 'folk horror' by way of abstract social commentary, reminiscent in some ways of 'Field in England'. Amidst a world virus, a scientist and a guide wander into the forest to meet another strange scientist who has been performing bizarre experiments with the forest, communicating with a nature network. The problem is, when people 'visit the forest', and come face to face with a large unknown, they tend to lose themselves in their own theories and stories. Includes strange folk-pagan rituals and sacrifices, even stranger merging of scientific sound and strobe lights with the forest, a psychedelic mushroom cloud and visions, bizarre people lost in their theories and strange practices, and savage gory violence as viewpoints clash. As usual for Wheatley, this features a world that slowly increases in its strangeness, thus gently immersing you into its strange internal logic that somehow makes its own kind of sense, a world of human warped rationality that is oblivious to its own savagery.

Kill List  
Impossibly cryptic British thriller that defies all possible explanations or categories, leading one to suspect there was no thought put behind it. The strange thing is, that it looks like a conventional thriller/horror hybrid for the most part, as long as you ignore the little details. The first part shows a very troubled marriage, both wife and husband lashing out at each other even in front of a guest friend who constantly works to defuse the situation. The second part turns into a thriller about assassins on a job to kill a list of people, except the victims all react strangely, calmly or happily, the husband growing increasingly more insanely violent as the victims turn increasingly more deserving of death. The final part swerves into bizarre horror about some kind of death cult. Even name-dropping won't help you figure this one out: The Wicker Man for its alien culture of death doesn't explain things adequately, neither does Rosemary's Baby for its supernatural conspiracy, or perhaps Eyes Wide Shut would be more appropriate, except this is about death and not sex? But his wife doesn't behave consistently, and the movie drops many hints that defy all of these explanations. The best theory I can come up with is that it is a surreal study on aggression and violence that take on a life of their own, the husband's traumatic war background leading to anger leading to violence leading to killing, which may or may not be all in his mind, all to the point where killing is justified by any means necessary, until the final death where shocking realization shatters this fugue of insanity. But even this explanation is pushing it.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents