Looking Back: Kill List (2011)

(Warning: Nudity pictures)

To celebrate the release of Free Fire, we’re looking back at the work of Ben Wheatley! First of is the much celebrated but Dan Bowers panned Kill List!

The best horror movies are those that leave the audience in the dark, for the most part. Only giving them snippets and clues as a puzzle to piece together until the grand reveal, a horror or thriller maker truly succeeds by making the audience as clueless as the characters. No one enjoys cinema when within the first five minutes, they have already sussed out the ending. It makes the suspense leave the movie, making it dry and lifeless. Kill List, however, is one of those movies that places a mask over the audiences eyes and tells them to run….

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Director Ben Wheatly, alongside writer Amy Jump, invites you into the twisted world of Kill List. Life for Jay isn’t sweet when he comes back home from the military. Mentally and physically scarred, after eight months he finds his money is running out and his relationship is strained with his wife, Shel. However, when his friend Gal offers him a job as a hitman, Shel encourages him to take it. But all is not as it seems in this gripping and tense thriller.

Kill List is a brilliantly bleak and troubled movie that is uplifted from the usual horror fare due to the intricate plot. Never revealing itself too early or indeed never revealing completely the true nature of the story, Kill List is wonderfully disturbing. As more scenes feed our curiosity, so does the unravelling story feed our confusion. And just when the audience feels as though it has a handle on the situation, Kill List turns into complete darkness, shrouding itself with questions that have no entirely complete answer. We are just as lost as Jay and Gal and Wheatly, using a mixture of unhurried lingering shots to fast paced cuts, manipulates this terrifying abandoned emotion.

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Upheld by some powerful performances by Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, Kill List never wavers into the overdramatic or overdone. In fact, despite following hitmen as they kill different figureheads, there is a large pull towards them because effectively, we are them, feeling every beat of distraught feeling that they do. It is bitterly realistic and that is upheld by the fantastic writing of Jump and Wheatly and the astonishingly orchestrated terror that Kill List is.  Wheatly has planned every ounce of fear right down the movies mood and texture. It is a slick and controlled experiment of the mangled and disturbed.

Akin to the psychological fare of The Wicker Man, Kill List is perhaps one of the best British Horror movies in history. It will take a very long time to shake away the cold feeling it leaves with you at the end. Still not completing the movie full circle, the dangling and unrequited finale is one that you keep with you. Bitterly outstanding, no other movie reaches the levels of perplexing dismay that Kill List does. It doesn’t opt for just the jumps; it opts for the gore, the surreal, the violent and the atmospheric. It is a formula of excellence that digs beneath the skin and bellows in your bones.

In conclusion, Kill List is very very frightening.

Free Fire is out in cinemas now! 

Looking Back: Sightseers (2013)

To celebrate the release of Free Fire, we’re taking a look back at one of Alice Lowe’s break out cinematic roles in Sightseers.

It was my mother who phoned me up to suggest this movie. My mother. Or “Mrs Poppers Penguin’s” as I like to call her. That should be a hint at the kind of movies my mother enjoys watching. So when she phoned me up, giddy, after watching the trailer and in between fits of laughter told me “you have to watch this movie, it’s about this couple who go on a holiday and start killing people,” I was intrigued. My own mother had piqued my interest in this black comedy British killing spree caper and I have to say that I have never been so proud to be her daughter. Because she was absolutely right. I fucking loved it.

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Sightseers, written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, is about a couple who go on a holiday and start killing people. Ok, so that may be the absolutely basic gist of the movie. Sightseers is about a new couple, Chris and Tina, who embark on an around the country caravan trip seeing all the fabulous sights such as the Pencil Museum.  After “accidentally” running over an annoying tourist at the transport museum, their trip takes a rocky start. And it’s soon teeters over the edge when Tina discovers Chris’ murderous side. But why let a few killings ruin a perfectly good holiday?

This off-beat and particularly dark comedy is written so well by our lead actors that you can’t help enjoy the hilarity when it comes. Tina and Chris are people on the edge of society. Middle aged, jobless, and put down by many, the couple are the kind of people you’d make fun of or overlook. Oram and Lowe had met seven years and spent that time developing the movie. This is clear because there is an intense chemistry between the two extremely developed characters with murky pasts and murkier intentions. Lowe and Oram have created two off kilter leads that are completely realistic, if not, just a murderous.

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But what is more compelling about Sightseers isn’t the sly humour and embarrassing moments, it is that the movie is sliced with these stark and cold deaths. They stick out as brutal as they are meant to be. That is part of the brilliance of Wheatly’s direction. Admitting himself that you are not supposed to enjoy these killings, Wheatly makes them as bleak as possible causing you to squirm. He wants to make you feel responsible and you do because the realistic gore isn’t to be lapped up, it’s supposed to condemn our own judgement of characters such as Tina and Chris.

Sightseers may seem funny and witty, but there are layers of brooding malice underneath. It is a fantastic exploration onto the twisted psyche of people you wouldn’t even consider being killers before. It’s a judgement and it is a warning, an adventure into the darker side of humanity. Sightseers is a marvellous attraction with a realistic and malice vein.

Free Fire is out now! 

High Rise – DVD & Blu-Ray Review

Surrealism is by far one of the most interesting film genres, if not the most accessible or enjoyable. It aims to shock and confuse, to create an eventful experience that usually makes zero sense. Problem is, as well crafted as they may be, it’s hard to appeal to most audiences in this case, as most surrealist films alienate those who watch. Well, it’s still a wild ride, but High Rise is one of the most accessible surrealist films in recent years.

Now, it’s accessibility comes from not being strictly surreal; the narrative isn’t linear, but there’s definitely one there. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a physiology doctor who moves into a high rise apartment complex, where the rich live at the top and the poor live at the bottom. With Laing’s arrival, the barriers start to get broken, and before long, chaos ensues. High Rise is enthralling for it’s first two acts; it’s so wonderfully weird and random.

A lot of the time, it’s hard to tell what’s going on, but that almost doesn’t matter. In fact, that actually helps. The way it delves deep into these inexplicable oddities yet maintains an overarching message of class war is deliriously entertaining to watch, and that’s in large part due to the cast. Tom Hiddleston is as charming as ever, offering one of the best acts of his career yet. Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons and Elisabeth Moss all do a fine job of their characters, but the real show stealer is by far Luke Evans as documentary filmmaker Richard Wilder. Evans completely loses himself in the role. There isn’t a single shade of the real man left, he is 100% the character. Wilder is rambunctious, angry and an absolute delight to watch. Evans deserves as many awards as he can get for what is definitely the finest performance he’s ever given.

Adding to the unbelievable atmosphere is the stunning use of camera; Whatever the occassion, Ben Wheatley knows exactly what he’s doing to keep his films engaging and interesting visually, and High Rise is truly a sight to behold. The cinematography is beyond stunning, the colours vibrant, the editing quick when it needs to be and slow when it doesn’t, and a soundtrack that is to die for. It is by far one of the most exceptionally crafted films of the year, and further proof that Wheatley is one of the best directors working.

Where this film falls apart is in it’s third act; the first two are chaotic and random, and it’s a rather nice serving to eat up fast. However, it gets very tired after a while. Without spoiling it, the film finds itself in a certain state towards the end, and that state just isn’t anywhere near as interesting as it was before. It does frankly get quite boring, though had the film been a tad shorter, it might not have felt this way.

Still, it’s not enough to tarnish what is otherwise an enthralling big ball of madness. High Rise is tantalizingly weird, expertly performed, and phenomenally crafted. It’s an often confusing but deliriously fun experience that holds up as one of the best films of the year so far.

Free Fire is out in cinemas now!