Kill List (2011)

Kill List (2011) movie poster

director Ben Wheatley
viewed: 09/20/2012

A hitman, suffering from some psychological stress, winds up taking another job with his partner, not just one hit, but a “kill list”.  He’s got trouble at home with a volatile, beautiful Swedish wife, and given the aberrant psychology, it’s never all that clear how much his “reality” is purely his, and not the same as the one generally observed by everyone else.  And then, when they get to their victims, it’s clear that he’s got a lot of violence within himself to dole out, sometimes even more than required, knocking off anybody suspected to be affiliated with a snuff film ring, for instance.

The film is by Ben Wheatley, and was getting a lot of buzz in its native Britain.  He’s already got another film out, Sightseers, and has been building a reputation for thriller cum horror.  And based on Kill List, I’d be very open to see what else he might have up his sleeve.

The best thing about Kill List are its plot twists, its blind alleys in regards of the story.  The less you know, the better.  So, if you’re it sounds remotely interesting, you should stop reading this and just see it.  The film doesn’t necessarily achieve greatness, but it shows promise, surprise, cleverness, and good performances.  It’s worth seeing for sure.  And quite gruesome at times.

But it’s a little hard to discuss entirely without spoiling it.  So read on if you will.

The film’s final twist, something that you get some hints of throughout, but really have no idea exactly what’s going on, is that there are a bunch of Satanists at the core of things.  His final hit is upon a “hunchback” who turns out to be his wife with his young son on her cloaked back.  Who he stabs to death in a ring of hooded worshipers.  This evokes some of Britain’s best horror films, such as The Wicker Man (1973) or Witchfinder General (1968), and it’s not exactly what I expected to happen.  But it’s also a bit unsatisfying, to me, at least.

I guess one of the challenges of an unreliable narrator (perspective) type of work is that it’s so often the case that it just turns out that the subject is crazy and his world is a world of madness that that twist is kind of predictable in and of itself.  I still kind of like it as it often offers for disjunctive and unpredictable moments and events, things that come from the unconscious or beyond.  The form itself is inherently oppositional to logic.

Kill List, though, is odd in both tone and style as well as narrative.  It’s mixture of surreal and impressionist reality and depiction, with naturalistic acting and dialogue, really does create something different and unique.  I will certainly be on the lookout for Wheatley’s next films.

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