English filmmaker and writer Ben Wheatley has acquired an international following for horror films like Kill List and A Field in England as well as black comedies such as Sightseers. He is the recipient of several prestigious accolades and nominations, including Raindance Jury Prize for Best UK Feature for his 2009 work Down Terrace and the TIFF People’s Choice Award for Free Fire (2016).
In an interview with NME, Wheatley paid tribute to his predecessors by naming his five favourite horror films of all time. While discussing the entries on his list, the filmmaker emphasised the impact that George A. Romero’s masterpiece Dawn of the Dead had on his own cinematic journey. “This has influenced me a lot,” Wheatley declared.
Adding, “It’s a perfect film in many ways, with lots of different compartments: there’s comedy in it and it’s got action – it’s a police procedural at the beginning and then it’s a siege movie. But it’s also a satire. Director George A. Romero found a very original and sly way of talking about consumerism which feels fresh. Now it’s become a kind of cliché, but when that movie was made no one was talking about things like that.”
Since Wheatley recently finished the production of his pandemic-themed horror production In the Earth, he revealed that he had been studying the works of John Carpenter lately. The filmmaker singled out Carpenter’s 1982 magnum opus The Thing, claiming that the sci-fi horror masterpiece has not aged at all despite the years that have passed.
“This is on the entertainment end of the register,” Wheatley said. “It’s endlessly fun and I’ve watched it a million times. It’s the perfect setup and the prosthetics are absolutely genius and don’t ever seem to age. Sometimes you think these movies will never get old and then you’re watching them and you spot something that shows their age. The Thing never seems to show it’s age to me. I watched all of John Carpenter’s films during lockdown.”
Check out the full list of Ben Wheatley’s top horror picks below.
Ben Wheatley’s top 5 horror films of all time:
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper – 1974)
- Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero – 1978)
- The Thing (John Carpenter – 1982)
- Come and See (Elem Klimov – 1985)
- Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi – 1987)
Wheatley also explained why Elem Klimov’s brilliant 1985 work stands out among the other entries: “It’s not strictly a horror film but it is a film that’s full of horror. It’s about the Russians fighting the Germans in Belarus during World War Two. It’s one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever seen. I bought it and it sat on the shelf for five years because I was too scared to watch it. I started watching it one night at 11pm – and then I had to watch the whole thing all the way through. I sat there just completely stunned.”
Continuing, “There’s a scene where they’ve gone back to the main character’s house but the stove is still on and his family have obviously just eaten a meal though they can’t see them. As they leave the girl he’s with looks around and sees all their bodies up against a wall. They’ve all been shot. He misses it and doesn’t look, but she doesn’t say anything. It’s unbelievably horrible.”
Read Wheatley’s full explanations over at NME.