47 FILMS: 28. KILL LIST

In our continuing series of 47 films to watch before you are murdered in your dreams, we look at Ben Wheatley’s stunning Kill List.

Sometimes genre doesn’t really suffice. There are films that slip through the nooks and crannies, for example Ben Wheatley’s oeuvre. His career has been full of what might be called horror, but is really more creepy, weird, strange and utterly fascinating. His debut Down Terrace was a gangster epic played out in the stuffy confines of a pokey terrace house in middle England. Sightseers is a black comedy about a serial killing caravan holiday and A Field in England is the play Samuel Beckett would have written if he’d chosen the English civil war as his topic and magic mushrooms as his muse.

Kill List, his sophomore movie, mixes the domestic black humor of Down Terrace and Sightseers with a darker more gruesome horror. This is English Gothic at its grittiest. Hit man Jay (Neil Maskell) is kicking about the house arguing with his wife at a loose end until ex-services pal Gal (Michael Smiley) turns up with the offer of a job, or a series of jobs. But this thin story line leads us into the badlands of weird and with the occasional burst of ultra violence. This is the sort of thing that the rejuvenated Hammer should be doing, rather than Harry Potter’s Woman in Black. The malevolence that lies under the surface of an apparently benign English society is scratched to the surface and revealed with a gleeful nastiness.

Wheatley and partner in crime Amy Jump is moving away from the low budget shocks with his latest: a cinematic adaptation of JG Ballard’s High Rise starring Tom Hiddleston no less. On the evidence of his body of work so far, it could well turn out to be a marriage made in hell/heaven/hell again.

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A FIELD IN ENGLAND: REVIEW

















ENGLANDBen Wheatley makes English films that are better than the English films made by Richard Curtis and John Madden. After the gothic gangsters of Kill List and the serial killing caravaneers of Sightseers, his latest is A Field in England, a kind of ‘Shroom Finder General, written by Amy Jump.  


Reece Shearsmith (of comedy group The League of Gentleman) is the coward, Whitehead, who in fleeing from a battle in the English Civil War finds himself, with two unlucky companions, in a search for treasure in an endless and inescapable field, goaded on by the demonic Irishman, O’Neill (Michael Smiley). The script is witty, the black and white photography stunning and the whole thing is mad – occasionally maddening – but entertainingly hallucinatory and mad dogs and Englishman mad.  It might not be for everybody, but f*ck you, I’m not everybody.