Ben Wheatley

Doctor Who Series 8

We knew Doctor Who Series 8 was fast approaching, but until now we hadn’t been officially briefed on just when it would land. Was it intentional for BBC to hold that confirmation until we were an appropriate number of weeks away? It seems too perfect. According to a new teaser via BBC America, the show will premiere with the first full episode to star Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor on August 23rd at 8pm ET. Titled “Deep Breath,” the episode will be written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ben Wheatley, best known for the films Kill List and Sightseers. The only other things we know are Jenna Coleman is back as companion Clara Oswald and Samuel Anderson is joining the show as another teacher at the school where she works. You won’t even get that much from the 15-second teaser, though. Have a watch after the jump.

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A Field in England

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Director Ben Wheatley has gotten so much attention from his last two films that we can probably now think of him as a buzzed-about name whose projects are greatly anticipated, and no longer as an underappreciated talent who needs to be treated like a discovery. With Kill List he showed off a unique ability to jump from genre to genre within the same movie and always keep his viewer guessing, and then with Sightseers he showed an ability to mine dark humor out of even the most violent and disturbing behavior. When you go into a Ben Wheatley movie you never quite know what to expect, but you can expect to see something unique. His newest film, A Field in England, opens on an empty field that’s on the outskirts of what appears to be a large battle. It closes on that field too. As a matter of fact, the action of the film never leaves that field, but a good amount of interesting things manage to happen anyway. The story starts with the promise of a road picture, as a quartet of men who have all deserted the battle in various ways come together and decide to travel to an ale house. After they come upon a patch of flourishing mushrooms and consume a good quantity of them though, the situation then becomes altered. Post-mushrooms is when the film goes from being a simple deserter’s tale to being about encounters with an Irishman who may be the devil (or […]

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High Rise

Imagine the greatest apartment complex anyone could possibly dream up. It’s got its own self-contained schools, grocery stores, and every modern amenity you’d ever need. What if this building was so convenient that you never had any reason to leave? Bottled up in one place forever, would the tenants create a utopia or would they descend into “Lord of the Flies”-esque madness and begin slaughtering, and even eating, their friends and neighbors? That’s the idea at the center of J.G. Ballard‘s 1975 novel, “High Rise.” Folks have been trying and failing to adapt it into a film for the past several decades- Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth) nearly made it in the 1970s, while Vincenzo Natali (of Cube and Splice) was the latest director to fall just short of directing an adaptation. But an adaptation is finally coming together. Screen Daily reports that Ben Wheatley, director of Kill List, will be the one to finally put Ballard’s novel up on the big screen. Wheatley may not be a sci-fi wiz like the last two directors attached to High Rise, but Kill List has enough horror elements to it (and all of them committed by regular old human beings) that it’s safe to say the project is in good hands. Let’s just hope it can weather the storm of The Raid comparisons, which have become commonplace for any movie set in an apartment complex.

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Don

The morning’s best writing from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Field in England Poster

Brimming with touches of a psilocybin-laced Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the trailer for Ben Wheatley‘s A Field in England promises a treasure hunt, screaming freakouts and total damnation. In its mysteriously simple synopsis, a band of deserters run from an English Civil War battle and becoming engaged in a search for buried loot. Somewhere along the way, mushrooms (or something psychedelic) gets involved. Most will want to see it based on Wheatley’s name alone, anyway. The director behind Kill List earned a lot of sharp acclaim for his vision and knack for upsetting, deeply trenchant storytelling. He then followed it with Sightseers and proved his chops with black comedy even further. And now, this:

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review sightseers

Editors’ note: Our Sightseers review originally ran during last year’s Fantastic Fest, but we’re re-posting it as the film gets a limited theatrical release starting today. The problem with making a truly fantastic film is that sooner or later you have to follow it up with a new movie. If it was your first then rumors will swirl about a sophomore slump, and if it’s your second then people will wonder if you can keep delivering the goods. Ben Wheatley‘s last film was the dark, brutal and highly acclaimed Kill List, and that in turn was a giant leap up from his debut, Down Terrace. Wheatley’s new movie is more of a jump sideways than up, but that’s actually even more impressive. Sightseers maintains the quality and effectiveness of Kill List even as it surprises with a constant stream of laugh out loud hilarity. Where his earlier movies featured darkly comic moments, this one is a flat out comedy… with gory murders. Has there ever been a love story as great as the one between Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram)? The answer is a resounding yes, but don’t tell that to these two sad-sack lovebirds. Tina is still reeling from the accidental death of her dog Poppy, but when her new beau Chris suggests the two of them take an RV trip across the English countryside she ignores her flatmate’s warnings and hits the road. It doesn’t hurt that her flatmate is her mother who constantly reminds Tina […]

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A Field in England

Looks like Drafthouse Films is picking up some primo real estate, as the film distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has just announced that their latest acquisition is Ben Wheatley‘s A Field in England. Wheatley is a name well-familiar to the Drafthouse genre buffs, as he’s already directed three uniquely terrifying films (Down Terrace, Kill List, and Sightseers) and contributed a segment to Drafthouse’s own The ABCs of Death. Drafthouse and Wheatley is a perfect pairing, and one that we’ve been expecting for quite some time. For the new film, which has been described as “a psychedelic trip into magic and madness,” Wheatley goes period all over the asses of some poor schmoes, as it centers on “English Civil War soldiers in the 17th century who are captured by an alchemist and led into a vast mushroom field, where they fall victim to violent and nightmarish forces.” Soldiers? A crazy alchemist? Mushrooms? If it’s half as scary as Kill List, theaters will have to put down tarps to capture the tears and wee of moviegoers. (This is a good thing, really, we promise.)

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Ben Wheatley‘s Sightseers is the ultimate dark comedy. It puts the most audacious visuals in front of you and dares you not to laugh at them. In the film, Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) take a week out caravanning across the English country-side. Little does she know, he’s a murdering psychopath with a short temper. Eventually, the two are traveling from one landmark to another killing anyone who pisses them off. Earlier this year, Bobcat Goldthwait similar God Bless America received a lukewarm response from critics. This feels like a less overbearing version of that film. While most instances of violence come from things that aggravate our protagonists, the murder spree doesn’t come out of some sense of entitlement. Chris and Tina kill just because they prefer that person dead, for their own gratification and to better enjoy their holiday. It’s not to improve the world around them. The film derives some great comedic moments from the bookends holding scenes together. Chris kills a man for telling him and Tina to clean up a piece of excrement, which is followed by them asking themselves, “Isn’t the country lovely?” The film revels in how easily Tina and Chris can justify their murders and brush them off as a part of their holiday.

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English Civil War

Coming off the gut-punch success of Kill List and hoping for similar results with his forthcoming Sightseers (and his ABCs of Death entry), Ben Wheatley is apparently going to wandering around in a war-torn field looking for treasure and mind-altering substances. Not a bad way to spend a sunny English weekend. According to Film4, Wheatley will be directing A Field in England – the first feature to be fully financed by the Film4.0 initiative. Amy Jump, who co-wrote Kill List and edited Sightseers, will co-write this with Wheatley as well. The movie, which will star  Michael Smiley, Peter Ferdinando, Reece Shearsmith, Julian Barratt, Richard Glover and Ryan Pope, focuses on a group of men who bail on a vicious English Civil War battle (circa 1648) only to be caught by two strange men looking for a treasure in the middle of a mushroom-heavy field. Then, chaos reigns. Charles I probably won’t be happy about it. It’s refreshing to see a period drama that sounds wholly unstuffy – a look into the world of the mid-1600s that isn’t all dry scoffing and sobriety. Although, without any Grateful Dead to aid them, it’s unclear what sort of tasty grooves these military men will be jamming to while paranoia takes hold. Jokes aside, that sound you hear is either three cheers for bizarre original filmmaking from talented storytellers or the distant drumbeat of a weird war movie on the way.

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Sightseers Trailer

Given that it’s British and it’s about two people taking a laugh-filled trip through the countryside, the initial instinct is to compare Sightseers to Michael Winterbottom’s 2010 release, The Trip. Or maybe given the inclusion of a cute little dog that gets in on all the action, Michel Hazanavicius’ Oscar winner from last year, The Artist. But, about halfway through its new trailer, when all of the casual murdering starts, it becomes clear pretty quick that comparing Sightseers to anything else just won’t do. For those who’ve seen its director Ben Wheatley’s previous film, the shocking and grizzly Kill List, that probably comes as no surprise. If Wheatley proved anything there it was that he’s a storyteller who can keep an audience on their toes, and a visual artist who isn’t afraid of graphic depictions of murderous acts. Trying to pin his films down is an exercise in futility, you might as well just go along for the ride and try not to get any on you.

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Editor’s note: This review was originally published as part of our SXSW 2011 coverage on March 15, 2011. But, just like another stand-out horror flick from that festival (look down!), we’re bumping this baby back up to remind all of you dear readers that the film is finally hitting limited theaters this Friday, February 3. Some films send their characters to hell and back, but few do so with the genre-bending, mind-fucking intensity of Kill List. Equal parts drama, thriller, and horror, the movie takes both characters and viewers on a hellish descent down the bloody rabbit hole with stops along the way for mystery, murder, and flesh-busting madness. Jay (Neil Maskell) has been out of work for eight months, and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) is not about to let him forget it. They fight constantly about finances pausing periodically to assure their young son that mommy and daddy still love each other before returning to the fray. Jay’s friend Gal (Michael Smiley) comes over for dinner along with his new girlfriend, Fiona (Emma Fryer), and the four spend a raucous night of laughs and alcohol punctuated with an ugly and awkward outburst between the feuding couple.

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Both last month and this month are shaping up to prove that this time of the year doesn’t only serve as a dumping ground for Mark Wahlberg action movies and another indistinguishable Katherine Heigl horror movie. So far we’re off to a great start for 2012, and I sure hope it continues that way. With another Heigl rom-com nowhere in sight, I believe we’re all clear for now. Honorable Mentions: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (got terrible buzz out of Butt-numb-a-thon, but it’s still got Ciarán Hinds, one of the best actors around, playing the devil) and Chronicle (apparently it’s better than it looks).

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We’ve featured a few of Lee Harcastle‘s short films before, and they’re always good for a bloody violent, clay-filled time. Now, according to Twitch Film, he’ll be teaming up with Kill List director Ben Wheatley for a clay animated prison exploitation flick called Megaevilmotherfuckers. Score one for good titling. There’s limited information at this point, and Wheatley still has a black comedy (Sightseers), a non-black comedy (I, Macrobane featuring Nick Frost) and a science fiction movie (Freak Shift) on the table after Kill List hits theaters this week and The ABCS of Death  becomes available later this year. He’ll also probably have to stop to eat or sleep at some point. Great title, great pairing, great genre. Both Harcastle and Wheatley are about to be very busy filmmakers, so be prepared. Also, just imagine what sort of gore and sex and violence they can get away with when it’s all clay.

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Earlier this morning, my partner in LA film festival crime, the lovely Ms. Allison Loring, posted her list of Most Anticipated Films from this year’s upcoming AFI FEST presented by Audi. Of course, many of our choices overlap (Shame, Butter, Rampart), but we part ways when it comes to some of the smaller films at the festival. For all the big, Oscar bait flicks (J. Edgar) or the wang- and soul-baring Fass-outings (Shame again, always Shame), there are a few films that I’ve been positively rabid to see (Alps, Michael) that might not yet have the cache value and audience awareness of those other films. From the festival’s incredible list of 110 films, I’ve narrowed down my list to ten films that are my bonafide Most Anticipated Films of the festival. Like any list, I am sure that some of you perusing it will be displeased, weighing in on titles I’m a fool to miss. But hold your wrath for a few days, because many of the best titles of the fest are ones I’ve already seen, and those films might just crop up in an unexpected place (like, oh, another list). AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting today, October 27, right HERE). The complete schedule grid is now online for the festival, which you can check out HERE. After the break, […]

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Another day, another lineup announcement from AFI FEST 2011 that sends me positively reeling. Today sees the film festival rolling out their World Cinema, Breakthrough, Midnight, and Short selections. Today also sees me jumping up and down and repeatedly screaming, “ALPS! ALPS! ALPPPPSSSS!” As has been the trend with AFI FEST’s recent lineup announcements, this crop of films guarantees that the festival is a can’t-miss for any film buffs in the Los Angeles area. There’s a number of titles here that festival-obsessed cinephiles will recognize from recent events – films like Ben Wheatley‘s Kill List, Morten Tyldum‘s Headhunters, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti‘s Carre Blanc, Nacho Vigalondo’s Extraterrestrial, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi’s This is Not a Film, and for Dogtooth obsessives like me, Yorgos Lanthimos‘s Alps. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). Free, guys, free. After the break, check out the full list of the films to be featured as AFI FEST World Cinema, Breakthrough, Midnight, and Short Film selections.

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Happen to remember the SXSW Midnight film that Rob called “a blood-drenched trip down the rabbit hole“? Hopefully you added it to that list you keep of smaller films to look out because there’s good news on the horizon. IFC Midnight is looking to give Kill List a release sometime in the near future, and its director Ben Wheatley already has his next project lined up. According to The Playlist, Wheatley will be joined by executive producer Edgar Wright to create Sightseers – a dark comedy that focuses on two road-tripping psychos. Those psychos will be played by the screenwriters Alice Lowe and Steve Oram who are no strangers to the British comedy world or the mind of Steve Coogan/Alan Partridge. In fact, Lowe appeared in Hot Fuzz as Tina, one of the residents of the sleepy little hamlet of Sanford, and Oram was on the best-named television show of all time: Tittybangbang. The best part about this not-yet-publicly-defined project is all the comedic talent involved. It sounds like a violent meeting between the happy clown and the one angry clown who wields a blunt instrument and carries a lot of childhood trauma with him. Wheatley has proven himself unyielding in his ability to make audiences delightfully uncomfortable, and the rest of the pedigree here is strictly for laughs. As such, it’s exciting to see what twisted baby might come from this partnership.

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Ben Wheatley’s darkly violent, morbidly humorous, and utterly surprising thriller Kill List was one of the best films at SXSW earlier this year, but unfortunately it’s an extremely easy movie to have spoiled by reviews, articles, trailers, and other marketing. (For the record my spoiler-free review can be found here.) Knowing too much won’t ruin the film by any means, but going in blind is rarely as rewarding as it is here. The film follows an unemployed hit man who gets back into the hired killer game as a means of providing for his family. He partners up with an old friend to take on an odd assignment that only gets progressively weirder. What starts as a relationship drama and character piece becomes a tense and brutal thriller before finally hitching a ride on the crazy train. Check out the trailer below… then don’t watch, read, or listen to another thing about the movie until you see it.

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By now you’ve already heard about The ABCs of Death – the anthology project being put together by Drafthouse Films, Timpson Films and Magnet. 26 directors, 26 letters of the alphabet, and 26 tales of horror and gore. The complete list of directors includes: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani and Helene, Adrian Garcia Bogliao, Xavier Gens, Noburo Iguchi, Thomas Malling, Yoshihiro Nishimura, J.T. Petty, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Chris Smith, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Anders Wulffmorgenthaler, and Yudai Yamaguchi. You no doubt counted that list and saw 26 filmmakers. You also noticed that two of them are a filmmaking pair, which means they still need one more to complete the series. That’s where you come in. This is your chance to have your name next to the guy that made A Serbian Film on a film’s credit sequence. Drafthouse Films is hosting an open short film competition to choose the last director where contestants will choose their own word (starting with the Letter T (my money’s on “Trebuchet”)) and craft a short based on it. Entries will be whittled down to a final 10 by a public voting system, and the winner will be chosen by the directors listed above. There’s no entry fee, and it’s open from now until October 1st at midnight PST. Grab your camera. Get started.

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