EXCLUSIVE: I’ve been told that one of the broadcaster’s upcoming projects is The Kill List, a horror film about a group of demobbed soldiers turned contract killers who run up against a devil-worshipping coven. It sounds like a schlocky pitch but director Ben Wheatley plans to shoot it in the British social realism tradition of Ken Loach. Producer Warp X is expected to start filming this summer.
Magnolia will release Wheatley’s feature debut Down Terrace in the USA this August. Metrodome, the UK distributor, is planning a simultaneous theatrical and DVD release in August too. The film, which is pitched as “Mike Leigh directing The Sopranos”, has just won the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Film Festival. It has also won Best Film at Raindance, the Raindance Award at the Bifas and Best Picture and Best Screenplay at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
Wheatley went out and shot Down Terrace in eight days on a budget of £20,000 ($30,000). The film follows the disintegration of a family of small time drug dealers. Wheatley’s thinking was to write as bleak a screenplay as possible and then cast it with comedians from Brit TV comedy shows including Spaced, The Office and Extras. He figured that the UK Film Council was not going to fund yet another Brit gangster film – even though what he had in mind was very different to a Guy Ritchie movie (“You fugging Muppet”, etc). Magnolia’s genre arm Magnet Releasing acquired worldwide rights after it saw the film at Fantastic Fest last September.
Wheatley is one of those increasingly common examples of a filmmaker coming up through the internet. He launched his own website almost a decade ago promoting shorts he had made. He then established himself as somebody who specialised in viral marketing campaigns, before migrating to TV. He has directed and written various TV shows for the BBC and Channel 4, including Time Trumpet, a show created by In the Loop writer Armando Iannucci.
Wheatley wants The Kill List to keep Down Terrace’s socially realistic style. Wheatley says: “It’s about making banging genre films and treating them in a realistic way.” I would argue that any genre film shot in a documentary style takes it up another level. That’s what made films as diverse as A Prophet and District 9 so good.