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Ben Wheatley's Top 10 Horrific Films

The Down Terrace, Kill List and Sightseers director's top ten films to unsettle the mind and perturb the soul. Watch them if you dare...

  • Come And See (1985) Elem Klimov

    The end sequence in the village is one of the scariest things I've ever seen

    Come And See (1985) Elem Klimov

    If you ask someone if they have seen Come And See, you can tell immediately whether they have. Their eyes widen slightly and they wince. Come And See is one of my favourite films of all time. It grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you into the horrors of war. You don't want to watch the screen, but you are compelled. The end sequence in the village is one of the scariest things I've ever seen. If I'd been shown this when I was ten I would have spent less time playing soldiers and being interested in guns. Having said that, if I'd seen this when I was ten I probably would have never recovered.

  • Threads (1984) Mick Jackson

    You can keep your vampires and serial killers, this film is the real deal

    Threads (1984) Mick Jackson

    Threads is a terrifying documentary style TV movie made by the BBC about what would happen to the UK in a nuclear war. You can keep your vampires and serial killers, this film is the real deal. I watched it when I was a kid and was profoundly scared. It was presented not as something that might happen, but something that was going to happen. I had just gotten used to the idea of growing a mohawk and firing a crossbow from a motorbike when the apocalypse comes, but it turned out that what nuclear Armageddon had in store for the UK (specifically Sheffield) was far less glamorous. I later saw The War Game - a dry run for Threads - and it's equally harrowing: "A four megaton bomb exploding sounds like a door slamming in hell!" Brilliant. I was thinking the other day what scares me most, and I came to the conclusion it's late '70s and early '80s public safety warnings about children being killed on building sites/in ponds/by strangers. I watched Threads recently and it's just as scary.

  • Ghosts... Of The Civil Dead (1988) John Hillcoat

    Turns out that prison is a living hell of extreme ultraviolence, corruption and rape

    Ghosts... Of The Civil Dead (1988) John Hillcoat

    The atmosphere of this movie is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Watching it, I felt a weight on my shoulders crushing me into my seat; I was tense with dread and fear. Before seeing this film I think I had a thought that prison might be a cosy place; like Porridge, with a friendly Ronny Barker type showing you the ropes. No. Turns out that prison is a living hell of extreme ultraviolence, corruption and rape. I left the cinema (The Scala in London's Kings Cross - now gone, but what a cinema!) shaken and very unhappy.

  • Cannibal Holocaust (1980) Ruggero Deodato

    If there is anything that defines 'video nasty'... this is it!

    Cannibal Holocaust (1980) Ruggero Deodato

    I felt dirty after seeing this for the first time. It's the sweaty mixture of exploitation, nudity, actual animal killing, casual racism and rape. And it's really scary. Cannibal Holocaust is the dodgy uncle of a sub-genre of fake docs that include Culloden, 84 Charlie MoPic, Blair Witch Project, Man Bites Dog and Cloverfield. I saw it on a third gen VHS which only added to the 'reality'. I'd never seen anything like it. If there is anything that defines video nasty"... this is it!

  • Ladybird Ladybird (1994) Ken Loach

    I've never seen a film before where I welcomed adverts

    Ladybird Ladybird (1994) Ken Loach

    I remember watching this with Amy [Jump, Wheatley's wife and co-writer] on Channel 4. It was horrific. Every advert break we would gasp and look at each other and shake our heads. I've never seen a film before where I welcomed adverts. The scene when Rock tries to take the bandages off her child but the bandages are all stuck to its skin is unbearable. This is emotional horror. You don't need to be chased around by phantoms (not that there is anything wrong with that!) to be wound up and traumatised.

  • Don't Look Now (1973) Nicolas Roeg

    I don't think I can watch Don't Look Now again. Not since becoming a dad.

    Don't Look Now (1973) Nicolas Roeg

    I don't think I can watch Don't Look Now again. Not since becoming a dad. I can't get past the first scene. It's a primal fear too far for me. But back in the day when I was a callow youth I really loved this film. Roeg's editing and crushing and moulding of time and memory is what cinema is all about.

  • The Thing (1982) John Carpenter

    The creature effects still stand up and are revolting

    The Thing (1982) John Carpenter

    Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, Dark Star, They Live... I am a massive Carpenter fan. I watch The Thing a couple of times a year. The creature effects still stand up and are revolting. Rob Bottin's eye for detail is incredible: The dog spitting the weird liquid over the other dogs, the wriggly tendrils shaking around out of the heart attack victim's chest, the spider head! The Hawks original is also ace. I am a sucker for movies with professional characters dealing with a crisis (the films of Hawks and Michael Mann, for example). I also love siege movies (Assault On Precinct 13/Zulu/Straw Dogs) so this gives us the best of both worlds.

  • Full Metal Jacket (1987) Stanley Kubrick

    Full Metal Jacket gets on my list due to the final sniper sequence

    Full Metal Jacket (1987) Stanley Kubrick

    I think a lot of Kubrick's films are horror films. Full Metal Jacket gets on my list due to the final sniper sequence, which is absolutely terrorising. I remember watching it in the cinema with my heart in my mouth. You want to run away to escape but you just can't stop watching. It's like a reduced slasher film, the GIs as the teenagers and the sniper as the serial killer picking them off one by one.

  • Dawn Of The Dead (1979) George Romero

    They are not playing about with the themes of Dawn Of The Dead: they mean it

    Dawn Of The Dead (1979) George Romero

    I love zombie films. I've seen loads of them and I read The Walking Dead (recently adapted for TV) religiously. Out of all the horror screen monsters, zombies are my favourites. Hell is other people (and even more so when they are dead and want to eat you). There is something so meaty about Romero's Dawn Of The Dead. It still stands head and shoulders above most other modern horror. I think it's because it's so smart and that it says everything there is to say. (Consumers are zombies/we have been defined by stuff/the modern world is not necessarily worth saving/always put one in the brain). The Snyder remake is good and scary but it's still very much in the shadow of the original. I think it's the Threads vibe; the fact that Romero and his collaborators had an actual potential nuclear apocalypse hanging over him. They are not playing about with the themes of Dawn Of The Dead: they mean it.

  • Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg

    What I particularly like about Videodrome is the way it merrily skips genre

    Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg

    There's a ton of brilliant Cronenberg horrors to choose from. What I particularly like about Videodrome is the way it merrily skips genre (there's even a musical number at Spectular Opticals) As a kid watching this film, I literally had my mind blown.

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