On October 18, Drafthouse Films goes Beyond to screen the LA premiere of Brit auteur Ben Wheatley's latest, "A Field in England," a B & W head/acid-trip set in the 1648 during the English Civil War. For now, you can stream his 2011 film "Kill List" (Netflix), probably the most bitter, nasty little thriller to come out of the UK in awhile. If Edgar Wright is the genre geek angel on your shoulder, Ben Wheatley is the conniving devil on the other.
While caustically funny but never comforting or reassuring, "Kill List" slowly yet suddenly goes from Fincher-esque procedural fare with spooky undertones to a what-the-fuck-did-I-just-see level of pure terror. Under vague circumstances, two ex-British soldiers are tasked with assassinating a priest, a librarian and a politician. Wheatley and cowriter Amy Jump carefully conceal information about the men's brutal past until the bitter end. A smart filmmaker who plays with mood and tone to present the interiors of his characters -- though we'll see what he's up to now when "A Field" premieres -- Wheatley mixes genres and styles with eager abandon. Scenes of intense domestic distress, such as a dinner party from hell, weave realism into more surreal moments sheered from the pages of horror. If you're not appalled by this movie, you're beyond help.
Also streaming is Wheatley's debut feature "Down Terrace" (Netflix), a more by-the-book and LOL-funny crime family film than "Kill List" but certainly just as violent and button-pushing, and on iTunes is "Sightseers," his twisted ode to the lovers-on-the-road movie. (TOH's "Sightseers" interview with Wheatley is here.)
Beyond Fest also screens the new crimson-stained yakuza film by Japanese director Sion Sono, "Why Don't You Play in Hell?" which nabbed an Audience Award at TIFF this year. On Fandor, you can check out two of his ultra-violent films, "Noriko's Dinner Table" (2005) and "Ekusute" (2007), which personify Japanese cinema at its most extreme and fetishistic, and catapulted Sono to the ranks of Takashi Miike ("Audition") and Kiyoshi Kurosawa ("Pulse") as a master of international horror. Like Sono's earlier "Suicide Club," "Ekusute" reeks of hopeless nihilism but, as a film that's literally about a vengeful head of hair and the hairdresser who loved it, doesn't shy away from the occasional wink. Don't miss his icky serial killer chiller "Cold Fish" (Netflix) either.
Meanwhile, one of the films playing Beyond Fest is available to stream for free on SnagFilms. Terror starts at home, literally, in Juan Piquer Simon's grindhouse masterpiece (yep!) "Pieces" (1982), which opens with a freckly little boy axe-murdering his mother. Cut to decades later and a serial killer is at large on a Massachusetts university campus, leaving only a trail of amputated female body parts in his wake. Could these incidents be related? Of course they could. "Pieces" is the kind of artless, kitschy trash that only could exist after the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" scared up sexually budding teens in 1974. The October 12 screening of "Pieces" features a live score by recording artist Umberto. While I don't want to discourage from checking it out in theaters, SnagFilms offers a high quality stream.
Check out the Beyond Fest schedule over at their official website here. Among other highlights are a pair '60s Japanese horror classics, "Onibaba" and "Kuroneko," and a screening of John Carpenter's "Assault on Precinct 13."