Kill List – Review

A film that divided critics last year was kill List. Some such as Mark Kermode had it in his top ten of the year while others totally trashed the film, calling it dreadful. It seems there is no middle ground for this one. Having avoided trailers for this I was totally in the dark. In this case, it was a good thing, up to a point.

The film starts in a domestic setting with a couple having an argument while their child is in the background. The husband, Sam (Harry Simpson), has not worked for over eight months and it seems that he has spent most of this time in or around his house. Tensions are high and moods swing from quiet and peace to blazing rows. Into this comes Jay (Neil Maskell), a friend and colleague of Sam’s. He and his date have arrived to have dinner with Sam and his wife. It unfolds that Sam and Jay are ex-soldiers who now work together as contract killers. A previous job has left Sam in the state he is now. There is an offer of a job for both of them. A small number of contract killings. A kill list. Reluctantly Sam agrees to take the job on the condition that this is the last one. The two men meet with the client and from there the film descends into madness,  horror, and violence.

This is a pretty disturbing film right from the start. There is tension within the house which lends to a tense atmosphere. The mood swings of Sam have everyone on edge, not knowing what will alter his calmness. It doesn’t seem to take much. Sam and Jay have a co-dependent relationship. The only time Sam is always in control is when he is with Jay. Jay needs Sam to give him purpose as we see him at a bit of a loss when alone. There are different types of horror on show in this film. There is the all-out gore. It is shown without any glamour and maximum brutality. This only ramps up the already heightened tension. There are some scenes where you are made to feel quite claustrophobic which is very effectively pulled off by the director and cinematographer. Not wanting to go into spoilers, I will let you find out the rest by viewing it yourself.

What you find from this film is that not one of the characters is sympathetic. I think that is the way it is intended. The performances are uniformly good.  According to IMDB, this is the first film performance from Harry Simpson as Sam. A very accomplished debut indeed. Writer / Director Ben Wheatley has created an interesting film that may have divided viewers but has certainly provoked debate and discussion since its release.  There is a theory that the majority of the film is in fact a dream sequence. Some of the themes actually came from a recurring dream the director had. There are images and scenes that echo later scenes. Some scenes are edited in such a way that they feel disconnected with no narrative as they might appear in a dream. I initially thought this to be the case. It is up to you to decide if this is in fact the case.

An interesting film. It is certainly not for everyone. A lot of people will hate this. Make your own mind up. I am reluctant to say I enjoyed it. Enjoy is not a word I would use for this. Recommended with a word of caution.

John McArthur
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  1. Pingback: Kill List (2011) « valdez2032

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