Review – Kill List

Kill List

Ben Wheatley

2011, UK

Jay is a married father who argues regularly with his wife. He hasn’t worked in months and their money is dwindling. Jay’s friend Gal comes to a dinner party with his new girlfriend and offers him work. They are hitmen. Jay and Gal take the job and work their way through the hits, but as the list gets smaller (and Jay’s murders get increasingly more violent) they wonder whether it the job isn’t too much for them to handle. But is it too late to walk away?

Ben Wheatley’s debut film Down Terrace was a curious, terrific examination of a dysfunctional family. It worked so well because it steeped itself in naturalism, using non-professional actors, real sets and naturalistic dialogue.  His second feature keeps the naturalism and drowns it in terror. I like to make comparisons with other films but it’s much harder with a movie like Kill List. Let’s say it begins something like a Mike Leigh-esque middle class social study and transforms into a faustian nightmare, descending into hell. The story is simple but the film is splattered with little winks, hints and red herrings which leave you confused excited and terrified. ‘Why did he say that?’ ‘Was that a dream?’ ‘Did I see that correctly?’ I asked all these questions throughout and continue to ask them. Much like Down Terrace it never forgets that the film’s naturalism is its key: its money shot. The realness racks the tension up from the first unbelievably strained dinner party to the riveting ending. All of these thrills, chills, head crunches, cult killings and naked masked psychopaths come together to create a riveting and terrorising piece of work. And when you think it might be over, that it’s safe, you are left with a finale so direct in its intention, so chilling in its purpose, it will manipulate and astound the most hard-bitten genre geek.


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