Monday, October 15, 2012



End of review.

Okay, I guess I should review it for real....

Directed by Ben Wheatley

There has been a lot of buzz about KILL LIST. Several websites I follow went out of their way to applaud the film and call it one of the best horror films of 2011. 

As is always the case when horror movies have good buzz, I was skeptical. It's not because I'm such a cynical bastard (which I am); it's just that everyone's view of what constitutes "good horror" is different. Horror, like comedy, is a very subjective genre. One fan's masterpiece is another's pile of steaming shit.

So I waited and kind of forgot about KILL LIST. And then, for some reason, it popped into my head, so I gave it a watch. 

There's no real way to review this movie without giving away spoilers, since the movie is one twist after another, so be forewarned, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

KILL LIST is about Jay (Neil Maskell), who has been out of work for eight months, much to the chagrin of his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring). One night, the couple has a dinner party, where Jay's old partner Gal (Michael Smiley, who is wonderful here) shows up with a date named Fiona (Emma Fryer).

During dinner, Jay has a bit of a breakdown, flipping over plates and getting into a violent argument with his wife. This is the first indication we have that Jay is not really "right in the head."

Gal takes Jay aside and tells him of a potential job, that will pay well. Jay is hesitant at first, but relents. And then we find out what kind of work these guys do: they're contract killers. 

The job seems simple, at least simple in hitman terms: kill three people: a priest, a librarian and an M.P. 

Jay and Gal have been hired by some mysterious old man who lives in a mysterious hotel and it's all very mysterious. And things get weirder from there. 

Jay finds his victims thanking him just before he kills them. He also goes off the deep-end, turning what should be simple hits into bloodbaths, much to the chagrin of Gal. 

Both men have a bad feeling about this job, and they want to back out. The mysterious old man says no: if they back out, not only will they be killed, but their families will be killed also. 

So Jay and Gal go off to kill the last person on the list, the M.P., who lives in a secluded mansion. While camping out at night, waiting for the right moment to strike, the guys witness a bizzarre cultish ritual, with naked people in masks sacrificing a young woman by hanging. It's not up until this point that KILL LIST becomes a "horror" movie. Everything preceding thi. s scene is more like a British gangster thriller. 

But when the scary stuff starts happening, it's pretty unnerving. Things slowly go batshit insane, and Jay retreats to a cabin with his wife and son to try to avoid the spooky cultists--to no such luck. 

I won't describe what happens at the end for two reasons: one is because it's much more effective if you have no idea what's coming and two is because I have no idea what the hell it means.

I'm not the type of movie-goer who needs everything spelled out for them. Sometime ambiguity can enhance a viewing experience. One of the greatest horror films of all time, Kubrick's THE SHINING, leaves a lot to the imagination, and it works.

KILL LIST is a different story. I'm not really sure if it succeeds. It's ending is shocking, and disturbing, but it also makes very little sense. I don't need all my questions answered, but a few hints might've helped. 

The film is well made; director Ben Wheatley knows how to frame a shot for maximum creep effect. The violence is brutal and graphic. The acting is good across the board, with Michael Smiley as Gal stealing every scene he's in. But KILL LIST is such an uneven film that it's hard to recommend. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, and suffers as a result.

I think a lot of the positive press from the film resulted in the fact that people were so caught off guard by the ending that they thought they had seen something truly remarkable, when really there's not much to KILL LIST beyond some graphic violence and one or two creepy scenes.

No comments:

Post a Comment