Tuesday, 6 September 2011

REVIEW: Kill List

Gruesome. Terrifying. Horrific. Disturbing. These were all words that inspired me to go see Kill List, one of the most talked about British films this year. But was it a killer of a movie or rather a slow death?

Director Ben Wheatley first caught my attention with Down Terrace, a different take on a gangster film that is really about a suburban family trying to get along and then takes a turn for the worst. It was quite shocking in places, but it’s non-chalant undertaking in such a recognisable environment made people feel quite perturbed, and although I didn’t really like the film, I respected what it was trying to do.

Wheatley’s next film, Kill List, takes everything I enjoyed about Down Terrace and twists it into something quite stunning, if only for it’s ugliness. There had been a lot of hype surrounding this film and I came out thinking it didn’t quite offer what others promised, a lot of other cinema-goers were pissed off with the ending and after a while, I thought about it more and more and I realised I actually really enjoyed it. In fact, the idea that it pissed people off makes me like it even more.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be for everyone’s tastes. The general set-up goes from kitchen sink drama to gangster thriller to horror and the exquisite blend of genres makes for an enjoyable ride, no matter what people say of the outcome. The bones of the film is that it’s about a hitman who is having some domestic arguments with his wife, they’ve run out of money and he needs to get back on the game with his mate. There’s talk of the war, of something disastrous that happened in Kiev and as they go through their kill list and down the rabbit hole, things start to get weirder and weirder.

Throughout the film are scatters of extremely strange, disturbing moments that come out of the blue. A sign carved into the back of a mirror, visions of people outside the window, photos being taken of them in secret and then the victims thanking them for being killed. These little scatterings of strange events in a real world is what makes the ending become somewhat believable in it’s audacity at going completely off the radar.

As a film, I thought it was extremely well made. I hate it when people use the word ‘gritty’ to describe a look of a film, as usually I think it means ‘grainy’ – which is generally a big no-no for any cinematographer. However, it’s handheld shaky-cam technique makes you feel like you’re in the thick of the action and the use of light is extremely well designed. The darkness is a symbol of our protagonist’s state of mind, it is in the dark where all the true horrors come to light. The sound editing is also some of the best I’ve ever seen (or heard), it’s a masterclass of building tension and unease then relief, it’s done in such a way that it brings you even deeper into the film.

Some of the sequences are horrific, terrifying and absolutely brilliant. My favourite scene was their escape through the tunnels underground which felt like a Silent Hill moment if ever I’ve seen one. The ending is purposefully left open for interpretation. It could be argued that the whole thing is real and that this group of people have had their eyes on him for a while, perhaps the whole thing is a metaphor for his relationship with his wife? Look how similar the people she shoots look to himself? It’s essentially an invasion of his home, of his inner keep and it is there that he finds the deepest horror – a Freudian hatred of his family. Perhaps it’s him coming to terms with his violent tendencies? There’s the idea that men don’t have anything to live or die for, that killing Iraqi civilians is as unjust as killing people on a list, what’s the difference? It could be the blood lust which becomes too overbearing. Perhaps it’s his isolation from everyone around him, he becomes so self-absorbed and disturbed that he loses all connections with the real world.

The sudden shock ending might not sit right with the audience, but I feel it was actually the best possible ending to create. Not only will it keep people talking and discussing, but it also allows the viewer to fill in the gaps themselves and it was never really about the kill list – it’s a MacGuffin if ever I’ve seen one. Unlike other British gangster films, this isn’t about the killing – it’s not cool and it’s not hip, it’s a horrific insight into the psyche of a man that turns into a strange Lynchian escapade that puts The Wicker Man to shame (not just because of the straw). I highly recommend you check it out yourselves and tell me what you think.

Rating: 9/10

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