Kill List, 2011.
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, MyAnna Buring and Emma Fryer
Kill List follows former soldier turned hitman Jay who has not taken on a contract since a failed job in Kiev and is struggling with financial difficulties. However, a tantalising solution to his woes lands on the table, courtesy of Jay’s friend and fellow hired killer Gal, as the two are hired for a job in which they are to kill three targets of varying status and occupations. However as the two embark upon their new contract, things take a more sinister, twisted turn as it seems that our protagonists may be pawns in a dark scheme much larger than they could have possibly imagined.
From one of Britain’s best up-and-coming filmmakers Ben Wheatley comes Kill List, a masterful blend of genres that knows how to really get under the viewer’s skin and deliver a chilling, memorable and nightmare-inducing viewing experience.
The leading duo of Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, as Jay and Gal respectively, make a terrific team. The chemistry between the actors gives a believable impression that the two have been brothers in arms for many years and that each would die for the other in a life or death situation.
Maskell’s performance as Jay is a personal highlight; he carries himself like a tormented man haunted by his what he has had to do both as a soldier and as a killer for hire. Smiley’s Gal provides some much-needed brevity to the increasingly dark proceedings as the dapper laid back Irishmen eager to help his friend and get him back in the hit-man business.
Kill List is very much an intelligent blend of several classic British film genres; the crime thriller, the domestic drama and the sinister folk horror film, gradually morphing from one to the next as it goes on.
Beginning like a domestic drama about a troubled marriage, with a squabbling couple being the first sounds heard, gradually, as our heroes begin to execute their targets, it becomes a violent crime thriller, before ever so carefully and slowly mutating into a truly dark horror, with hints of folk legend becoming increasingly prominent.
Sort of like if Mike Leigh and Guy Ritchie teamed up to direct a remake of The Wicker Man.
I should warn you all that the film is not for the faint of heart. The scenes in which our heroes carry out their contracts begin simple enough with gun shots, but grow increasingly violent and vicious as the pair become increasingly appalled at the actions of their targets, gradually viewing the killings as a kind of justice. Or as Jay says to Gal, their faces illuminated by flames, “these are bad people, they should suffer”.
The killings, despite their ferocity, also allow for some of the film’s creepiest moments, especially when a battered and mutilated victim uses his last breath to thank Jay for murdering him. The fact that these individuals seem to be welcoming a brutal death, one with a battered and bloody smile on his face, just makes your skin crawl and keeps you guessing as to what sort of messed up business our protagonists have got themselves into.
Led by a pair of terrific performances from Maskell and Smiley, an intriguing plot that get’s darker and more horrifying as it progresses, and expert direction from the always brilliant Ben Wheatley, Kill List is without a doubt one of the best horror films to have come out of Britain in years. Not only is it one of the finest British horror films ever made, but I would happily rank it as one of the best horror films of the last 20 years from anywhere in the world.
Check it out and really let get its claws into you – you won’t be disappointed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★