Kill List (Ben Wheatley, UK)Posted: January 2, 2012
Ben Wheatley’s much talked about Kill List is a dark, claustrophobic and disorientating journey into hell. It follows the descent into madness of Jay, a man haunted by the violence he has seen and committed both as a soldier in Iraq and in his post military career as a hit man for hire. Whether that descent into madness is internal or external is not clear and I will leave that up to you to decide. What is not in doubt though is that this is visceral, gut-wrenching, low budget film making at it’s very best.
The film starts relatively normally as a tale of domestic disintegration as Jay is still struggling to come to terms with a botched job 8 months previously. The largely improvised dialogue and handheld verite style of the film place it firmly in the British social realist genre of Leigh, Loach and Meadows. Things soon start to take a turn for the weird as Jay and his partner take on a mysterious new job. It is at this point that the film really comes into it’s own as an exercise in creating a claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere. Jay starts to unravel as things get increasingly out of hand and escalate towards a truly horrifying and upsetting denouement. Whether we are to take the events of the film literally or as some kind of manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress I am not sure and ultimately it does not really matter as for me it works either way. It is clear though that Wheatley has crafted a highly original and unsettling film that will undoubtedly become a cult classic in years to come.
Some have criticised Kill List as 2 different films clumsily welded together but the move from thriller to horror in the final part of the film is a masterstroke and left me reeling despite expecting this change of focus. It will not be for all tastes and indeed some of the people I watched it with absolutely hated it. What cannot be denied though is that love it or hate it Kill List will stay with you long after it has finished.