The Genius of Ben Wheatley – Down Terrace

Ben Wheatley’s first two feature films, Down Terrace and Kill List are currently available on instant Netflix. His third film, Sightseers, is just starting to see U.S. distribution.

Ben Wheatley’s genius is not in the enjoyability of his films. His particular genius is an ability to populate his films with real people, (forgive the expression) warts and all. He avoids making his characters archetypes but it does mean that they are difficult to like as they are terribly flawed.

One-Line Review: Delightfully dark low-key debut rewards patient viewing.

Down TerraceDown Terrace (2009) – Rated R

“Just released from jail, father-and-son crooks Karl (Robin Hill) and Bill (Robert Hill) attempt to keep their two-bit illegal enterprise from crumbling while ferreting out the snitch who squealed on them to the cops in this British black comedy. The suspects include Karl’s wife (Julia Deakin) and pregnant gal pal (Kerry Peacock), a hit man (Michael Smiley) and a reviled family friend (Tony Way). As the double crosses multiply, so do the laughs.”

Ben Wheatley serves as writer, director, editor, and producer on Down Terrace. Down Terrace is basically a one-location play, set in Karl’s house. The house and surroundings are well-utilized for this low-budget production. As with Guy Ritchie’s early movies, you may have to turn up the volume and pay close attention as the accents are a bit difficult to comprehend.

There is a general malaise to the characters in Down Terrace that extends to the film itself. Essentially nothing happens until the halfway mark of the film yet there is an early hysterical passive-aggressive dinner that rings horrifically true. Down Terrace rewards patient viewing with loads of hilarious low-key black humor in the second half.

None of the actors look or act glamorous which is a big plus. They all seem like real people, i.e. the characters they are playing. If I had to single out two of them (yes, that’s ironic), it would be Julia Deakin (Shaun of the Dead) as Maggie and Michael Smiley as Pringle, the enforcer.

Down Terrace is highly recommended BUT requires a thorough attentive viewing – no playing on your iPad while watching!

People Watch: Yes those are father and son playing father Bill (Robert Hill) and son Karl (Robin Hill). Both also appear in Kill List and Robin helped write and edit Down Terrace.