DEEPLY unsettling and bizarre is how the British horror, thriller, Kill List could be described. Director Ben Wheatley returns to the director’s chair, following up his 2009 dark comedic feature debut, Down Terrace. Wheatley co-wrote the film’s screenplay alongside his wife, Amy Jump, but the film’s cast is credited with largely improvised dialogue.
The film stars Neil Maskell as Jay and Belfast’s Michael Smiley as Gal. The two play hit men, who accept an assignmment to kill three targets. What starts as a relatively straightforward job, unravels into something much more sinister and horrific. MyAnna Buring gives a strong performance as Shel, Jay’s Swedish wife, who encourages her husband to return to his line of profession.
The characters of Gal and Jay make an interesting and believable double act. Gal is laid back and humorous, while Jay is moody and impulsive. What starts seemingly as a dark comedy, the two talk about their personal lives, discussing their respective love lives while undertaking their ghoulish assignment. As the film’s events unfold, the tone turns from comedy to horror.
The Director, claimed his inspiration for Kill List, came from recurring nightmares when he was younger, some of the film’s sequences are truly nightmarish. Surprisingly the British Board of Film classification passed the film uncut and the BBFC has given the film an 18 certificate for very strong bloody violence.
During some of the film’s more graphic sequences, you might expect the camera to pan away from the on screen violence and some might find the scenes too disturbing. In one scene, Jay attacks a man with a claw hammer and it is shocking just how explicit the sequence is
Surprisingly, the films most disturbing scene, remains largely unseen. Jay and Gal briefly watch a film in a garage belonging to one of their targets. They are disgusted and horrified by what they see, considering how explicit other sequences in the film are, viewers can only imagine, based on the facial reactions of the two men just how shocking the footage is.
As the film reaches its climax, the film becomes oppressive and deeply claustrophobic. The film’s final scenes are confusing and bizarre, asking more questions than it answers, which will intrigue or infuriate some audiences.
The film never fully reveals itself, aspects of the plot, such as events in Kiev involving Jay. It is numerously mentioned throughout the film but a full explanation is never offered.
With its aspects of the occult, some will compare the film is similar in tone to the original Wicker Man and Blair Witch Project. Yet it seems much darker and sinister than both of these films and in my opinion one of the best horror films of 2011.
Review by William McClean