I’ve seen my share of messed up films; Salo, Cannibal Holocaust, Calvaire, Anatomy of Hell. These are a few that come to mind. Kill List isn’t as graphic as these films, but the content will shake you to your core. I didn’t know much about Kill List when I sat down to watch it at TIFF Midnight Madness back in 2011. I’d watched the trailer to psyche myself up, I figured that was good enough for me. I thought I was prepared. I quickly realized this was a different kind of horror film.
I never would have thought a tale about two hit-men would scare me as much as Kill List did. What starts out as a simple contract involving three targets, turns into some serious psychological horror, with an ending that still sends shivers down my spine when I think about it.
The story follows Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley), two soldiers who have become hit-men since their time in the military. Gal is seemingly unfazed by his time in Kiev, but Jay is still recovering. He hasn’t worked in quite some time and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) is worried because money is tight. At a dinner party Shel and Jay host for Gal and his girlfriend, Gal informs Jay of a well paying job he’s come across. They will meet with “The Client” (Struan Rodger) who has a list of three targets he wants killed. At the meeting, The Client cuts Jays hand and then his own, signing the contract in blood (this should have been a sign to just get out of the job before it began). What follows is a slow burn of tension and anxiety, that culminates in full on horror. It’s unpredictable, and the ending is completely disturbing. I honestly didn’t see it coming, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after. The violence is sporadic, graphic and in your face. The cast is great, with it’s two leads Neil and Michael being the standouts. Props must be given to Ben Wheatley for his direction of the final confrontation. It takes place among these underground tunnels, with Jay and Gal attacked by cult fanatics (they’re wearing straw masks, with some of them being completely naked) and it’s totally nerve wracking. The script is really well done. There’s subtle hints throughout, little clues among the contracts. It’s these little secrets that make Kill List a film that demands multiple viewings. Everything is up to interpretation and will have you discussing with your friends what the hell just happened.
Ben Wheatley solidified himself as a director to watch out for with this one. He’s already showed range with different genres, especially with his most recent film Free Fire (you can check out my review for it here). I can’t wait to see what horrrors Ben will unleash on us next with his next film Freakshift. As for Kill List, it’s a hell of a debut and a terrifying descent into madness. It will absolutely get under your skin and stay there long after the credits have finished. – NVJ