Monday, 1 October 2012

Kill List (2011) - Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley? Ben Wheatley? I recognised the name, but I couldn't place it back when everyone was arguing over whether Kill List was any good or not. So I IMDB'd him (like you do) and it turns out he'd directed the last film I ended up watching in 2011 - Down Terrace. That was on New Years Eve, right before going out for the night, and it was God awful. A real pile of rubbish. Now it's not often I think something like that about a film, since all films no matter how bad take time and a heck of a lot of effort to put together. But it has to be said Down Terrace was painfully bad.

So you can imagine how low my expectations were going in to see Kill List can't you? Let's say they were non existent, and leave it there. It turns out Kill List is the film I've watched most this year (three times so far), it's a triumph of modern film making and a truly nasty little horror flick to boot. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, first a quick plot synopsis. Gal (Michael Smiley or Tyres from Spaced to you and me) and Jay (Neil Maskell) are a couple of hit men, employed to bump off people from the titular list. Jay's a family man and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) sets up the hits for them. It sounds like a typical genre film that you've seen a hundred times at least, but director Wheatley manages to spin it in directions that make it feel fresh. For a start he wrong foots you by making you feel like you're watching a Mike Leigh suburban drama, the first twenty minutes of the film being set around a typical Leigh style dinner party. However once the boys get off on the road and on with the mission things start to get weird. I can't really write much about what happens other than you'll leave the film with the feeling that you need to sit down and watch the film again.

This film has really made people get hot under the collar, some dismiss it as utter rubbish (which it really isn't), while others seem to think it's the best British horror film since Christopher Lee tricked Edward Woodward into spending the night on Summerisle. Like I wrote earlier I thought this was wonderful, and when watched again it becomes apparent that Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump (who are a real life couple) have fashioned a clever tale that on the surface can feel a little slight, but when looked at a little closer reveals hidden depths. It actually has a decent structure with elements at the start being repeated at the end of the film.

The sound design is great (although the dialogue is mixed too low), scenes that would normally feel ordinary are full of menace thanks to Jim Williams' creepy humming  soundtrack. The whole cast are so much better than you'd expect too, everyone manages to make their characters into believable living breathing people. Best of all though it has a great ending, not one that everyone will love since you'll need to go away have a pint, mull it over, have a chat with some friends about it and then watch the film again. But that's a good thing, it really is. In fact it's probably this that Kill List has going for it most, you have to put your brain in gear and do a little work. I think I've finally figured out just what the hell is going on, and that's taken three viewings.

I really can't recommend this enough, it's not for the fait hearted since it's brutal in places, but if you like a bit of mystery in your films and if you miss David Lynch then this might be the film for you. Best British horror since The Wicker Man? No, but it's up there with Eden Lake and that's praise enough I think.

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