Ben Wheatley to direct zombie-pensioner TV satire on divided Britain

Lanre Bakare
Photograph: Robert Perry/Rex/Shutterstock

After setting films in a High-Rise and A Field in England, the director Ben Wheatley is turning his attention to a provincial British town for a new six-part zombie drama satirising intergenerational divides in the UK.

Channel 4’s Generation Z will be written and directed by Wheatley, with the Free Fire director skewering tensions between age groups in a dark satire that will feature flesh-eating pensioners and mirror the restive atmosphere of Brexit Britain, according to its producer, George Faber.

“What’s happening in the UK right now is a slow-motion civil war,” says Faber. “Our political class have found a way of dividing us down the middle and politics has become hardened to ‘us vs them’. There is no middle ground, which just leaves you with the living and the dead, effectively.”

In a provincial town that “could be anywhere”, the main characters are a diverse group of young people dealing with a marauding group of zombie pensioners, who are infected after a military convoy carrying a toxic substance crashes into their retirement home.

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Faber believes the zombie metaphor is an ideal way to satirise contemporary Britain. “You can tell a story about what is happening in society through zombies because it takes the racism, xenophobic and ageist curse off the idea,” says the producer, “because they become the democratic undead.”

In the show, grandparents represent baby boomers, while parents and teachers represent generation X, with the younger characters representing the titular generation Z, who have to cope with mounting student debt, worse job prospects, no hope of ever owning their own home and, now, zombies.

“Our heroes need to take on the old flesh-eating zombies who have stolen the resources and finally the flesh of the young,” says Faber. “For this group of kids the zombie apocalypse is just another hurdle in their lives that they’ve got to get over.”

Generation Z will be shot next year and is expected to be broadcast in late 2020 or 2021.

It is Wheatley’s first major British television project since he directed two episodes of Doctor Who in 2014. The director is known for his dark brand of distinctly British humour that he honed in films including Kill List, Sightseers and 2013’s A Field in England.