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! 

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