5. Sightseers (2012)
Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram) go on a caravan holiday to take in various anorak-y tourist attractions in the north of England and along the way develop an appetite for a petty brand of vigilante justice, accidentally, intentionally or accidentally-on-purpose leaving a trail of bodies of litters, rude posh people and glampers in their wake.
This ingeniously turns very British microaggressions into murder on the darkest and bloodiest of seemingly quaint trips – we’ve all probably had dark thoughts about what would happen if we ever taught someone who annoyed us a lesson, and this acts out that very dark fantasy to an alarming extreme.
As protagonists Tina and Steve become quickly unlikeable as the film goes on, you do begin to worry that some might take the wrong message away from this film, thinking that depiction of horrible acts is the same as endorsing them, but this still makes for a fascinating and funny dark comedy nonetheless.
4. High-Rise (2015)
An ambitious but fiendishly tricky to decipher JG Ballard adaptation. This might have felt a little remote and disconnected when it was first released in 2015, but today this story of class warfare in a confined space is powerful and timely.
Dr Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into a state-of-the-art tower block that houses a microcosm of British society with the middle and upper classes in the opulent spaces above, and the working and lower classes sharing the overcrowded bottom floors. Before long a rebellion in response to power cuts and dwindling supplies led by filmmaker Wilder (Luke Evans) is in progress, but the rich won’t give up their way of life easily.
This is flawlessly designed, scored and packed full of ideas, extreme imagery and iconoclastic, verging-on-revolutionary intent, just don’t expect to be allowed to get under the skin of any of the broad-strokes characters, least of all Hiddleston’s protagonist.
You have to have a tolerance for caricature, for exaggeration to make a point, but after the last few years of the rich getting richer, staying in power and not being held to account, how unfeasible really is the rich having a week-long fancy-dress-orgy-pissup while the poor scrabble around in the dark for rations?
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3. Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018)
The family get-together from hell and definitely Wheatley’s most down-to-earth, humanist film.
The black sheep of the family (Neil Maskell’s Colin) hires a lavish country hotel for a new year’s celebration, but before he knows it bad blood and ancient arguments resurface. So far, so Festen but believe it or not unlike most of Wheatley’s work this one does have a sort-of happy ending.
The Burstead clan make the family from Down Terrace look stable and well-adjusted in comparison, but this dysfunctional bloodline let it out not with lethal violence but with good old-fashioned passive-aggression. This is Wheatley’s take on Dogme-95 or other stripped-back indie film movements, but it’s funny and full of heart as well as being deeply uncomfortable and ringing completely true.
The whole ensemble bring their A-game, with Maskell’s usual flawed masculinity giving way to sympathetic vulnerability to such an extent that you want to give Colin a big comforting hug, and Charles Dance is another highlight with his dignified and dialled-back performance as Uncle Bertie.
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