Kill List (2011)

Title: Kill List

Director: Ben Wheatley

Genre: Psychological Horror / Thriller

Plot Summary (No Spoilers): Eight months after a disastrous hit job in Kiev left him physically and mentally scarred, Jay (Neil Maskell) is pressured by his partner Gal (Michael Smiley), into taking a new assignment. As they descend into the bizarre, disturbing world of the contract, Jay’s world begins to unravel until fear and paranoia sending him reeling towards a horrifying point of no return. 

Review (spoilers!): I recently re-watched this gem of a movie on the recommendation of the /horror Reddit subgroup. I vaguely remember viewing this movie years ago when I was a little baby goth. I’m sure I watched it with an ex-boyfriend just before we split up and we were in an absolutely shambles of a relationship so I was rather distracted upon first watch. I remembered that this movie had an insane twist ending, but the passing years had wiped any specific details from my mind.

It turns out that Kill List (2011) was well worth watching again. This is a movie in two distinct acts – the first act is a family drama (and what a horrifying dysfunctional relationship we witness), the second a crime thriller, and the third act descends into a fantastic occult horror that had only been vaguely hinted at in the previous acts.

Permeating throughout the entire movie is a sense of perpetual dread and confusion. The audience is, like our rage-aholic protagonist Jay, mostly left in the dark for the majority of the running time. Just who are Jay and Gal working for? Who are they killing, and why? What’s up with Gal’s creepy new girlfriend, Fiona? Will Jay just calm the fuck down and stop with his machismo bullshit? (Answers- the cult, members of the cult as a tribute, she’s recruiting them into the cult, and … no.)

I find that British horror movies tend to be much better at creating a sense of realism t than their Hollywood counterparts. This is neither good nor bad, depending on what kind of movie you fancy watching on any given night. Yes, the cult turned out to be scary and manipulative, and it’s always unnerving to face the dark forces that control our society. But I found Jay’s horribly chaotic relationship with his wife Shel, and his obvious issues with anger and rage were far more disturbing to witness. Jay is not at all a sympathetic character. Yet he’s so out of his depth we end up sympathizing with him anyway.

As for the ending – I still love it. The twist didn’t hit me in the gut like it had the first time I watched the movie, and by the time ‘The Hunchback’ hobbled onto the screen it had already clicked in my mind exactly what kind of trouble was afoot. This didn’t lessen the movie’s impact, though, and Shel’s hysterical laughter as she lay on the ground with her dead child strapped to her back is a visceral image that burned it’s way into my subconsciousness.

And what of Jay? His disorientated, confused dead-stare at the end of the movie is entirely up to interpretation but I think that with nothing else to live for, he would end up joining the cult as their enforcer. The man clearly has a great capacity for violence, and isn’t exactly scrupulous in his choices. Or perhaps he would rampage, Rambo-style, and wipe the whole cult out. Jay isn’t the most predictable protagonist.

My only criticism, and the reason that I just don’t feel 5 skulls would be warranted for this movie, is that the ending is so abrupt and I just want to know more about this world. The ending is impressive – but a little more world-building would have been nice. The ambiguity surrounding Shel’s involvement (or not, as the case may be) with the cult could have been resolved, too.

My Rating:

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