Wednesday, October 14, 2015

31 Days of Horror-Day 14: Kill List (2011)

(dir. Ben Wheatley)

IFC Midnight
*First time viewing

An unemployed British soldier partners with his friend to fulfill a set of contact kills for mysterious employers.

Despite the ample amounts of positivity heaped upon this film, I’ve held back from watching Kill List for quite a while. It’s been built up to an ominous level, a film possessing a near totemistic evil, and frankly, as a lover of all things horror, had some trepidation about delving into it. Well I can firmly say that Kill List is not the scariest film I’ve seen in years, or the most violent, spirit-shattering, or any of the other adjectives used to describe the film. What it is in reality is a very good film, one that’s cryptic to a degree that some will celebrate and others will detest.

Wheatley creates a tense introspection on violence, one that uses viciousness as an instrument instead of an excess. Even when Jay isn’t shooting contracts in the back of the head or smashing them open with a hammers, his life is fraught with violence. We spend a lot of time in Jay’s home, witnessing the increasingly dramatic domestic squabbles between he and his wife Shel, their make-ups, and dissention into argument once again. The home, meant to be place of safety, becomes an increasingly uncomfortable space and we get the sense that Jay isn’t meant to be a family man. This can be looked at as a result of PTSD from the Iraq War, but the film hints at something more sinister, that Jay is a sadistic, soulless man playing a dress-up soldier, hitman, and family man and that he isn’t even aware of this. As the film races through its tense and unsettling climax where the final target is revealed to be a cult leader, we’re given more questions than answers. Wheatley places the audience in the same lost cloudy mindset as Jay, but provides enough clues to piece together the themes of the film.

Scare Factor: 3/5 The first hour of the movie is a really good hit-man flick, violent, realistic and occasionally funny. The last half hour becomes a frenetic duel with the devil. Kill List isn’t as shocking as it has made out to be, but it’s wonderfully shot and executed. While the film doesn’t give audiences everything, it provides enough details for clarity and enough ambiguity for the horror to be maintained. 

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