Down Terrace

Review by Anton Bitel @AntBit

Directed by

Ben Wheatley

Starring

Julia Deakin Robert Hill Robin Hill

Anticipation.

Good buzz, various festival prizes.

Enjoyment.

Evil has rarely been so hilariously/horribly banal.

In Retrospect.

Less sudsy soap than dirty realism, this kitchen-sink crime dramedy confounds genres.

In his low-budget feature debut, Ben Wheatley brings a very English working-class brand of domestic banality to his evil.

MONDAY. TUESDAY. The events of Down Terrace are regularly punctuated by intertitles stating in bold capitals which day of the week it is. These fit in perfectly with the film’s quotidian concerns, as a family’s kitchen sink dramas are played out in a Brighton terrace house measured in cups of tea, talk of DIY repairs, and occasional visits from friends and associates.

Anyone who has seen The Shining knows that such titular time-markers can also serve as a signifier of approaching (and underlying) horrors – and so it is that this sit-com set-up will soon be accommodating violence, betrayal and cold-blooded murder.

Bill (Robert Hill), Maggie (Julia Deakin) and their 34-year-old son Karl (Robert’s real son Robin Hill, who also co-wrote and edited) may seem like an ordinary family, but that is only because, as Bill puts it, they ‘can’t be too conspicuous.’ Bill, you see, heads the local chapter of a crime syndicate. But someone’s been talking to the police, so Bill, with his wife as chief advisor and occasional enforcer, sets about identifying and eliminating the informant in their ranks.

Meanwhile, Karl – engaged to Valda (Kerry Peacock) and soon to be a father himself – wants out, but the blood in this family runs very thick, and as Karl unearths some well-hidden home truths, he looks set to continue the very legacy that he longs to sever.

From The Godfather to The Sopranos, crime and family have long made compelling bedfellows, but in his low-budget feature debut, Ben Wheatley brings a very English working-class brand of domestic banality to his evil, doing for the gangster flick what Steven Sheil’s Mum & Dad did for survival horror. It is a tragedy, but also very funny, shocking and also utterly mundane –though the seething tensions are always palpable even if the violence is largely kept out of the frame. Isn’t that how it is with most close-knit clans?

A British crime film that is refreshingly free not just of cliché but (broadly) of action itself, Down Terrace offers an ensemble of believably contradictory characters divided between their commitments to work and family, and then observes from its darkly comic distance as they all try to kill one another – in the family way.

Published 29 Jul 2010

Tags: Ben Wheatley

Anticipation.

Good buzz, various festival prizes.

Enjoyment.

Evil has rarely been so hilariously/horribly banal.

In Retrospect.

Less sudsy soap than dirty realism, this kitchen-sink crime dramedy confounds genres.

Read More

High-Rise

By Anton Bitel

Ben Wheatley serves up a sensational 21st century satire that’s funny and frightening in equal measure.

review LWLies Recommends

Sightseers

By Adam Woodward

The director of Kill List and Down Terrace returns with a camp comedy caper about pair of cagoule-sporting serial killers.

review

Kill List

By Dan Brightmore

British director Ben Wheatley delivers a future classic in the form of this white-knuckle thriller.

review LWLies Recommends

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design