Mar 11 2013
While I normally refrain from talking about only one movie specifically (I blame ADD), I feel like I need to talk about Kill List. This fact was only proven further when I got the short but precise email from Paul, asking me if I had seen Kill List. Truth is. I had seen Kill List, and was so madly in love with it, I didn’t really speak of it anywhere other than here, so when Paul asked me if I had seen it, I knew that was his way of saying “Wow” and I knew it was time. Time for me to talk about the movie that made me fall back in love with the genre. Okay, that is a lie, I was and always will be in love with the horror genre, but Kill List is something brand new.
For me, it has become the hulking, roaring beast on the mountain top, silhouetted against the pale moon, that all other horror films will henceforth be judged upon. It did for me what Martyrs did for me in 2008. It did for me what Funny Games did for me in 1999. It even did what the Exorcist did for me, way back in the earliest days of my love for horror. It reminded me that there are things going on, right under our noses, that we have no idea about. Millions of miles of undulating worms, right under the Earth’s surface, ready to crack the open and pour out. Not literally, I just thought that was a cool visual.
Anyway, Kill List does it all, and it does it all perfectly. An engrossing story that is wholly disturbing, and requires multiple viewing to truly appreciate. I will write this article with the assumption that most have not seen this movie, and I will avoid any spoilers, because to ruin this film is to ruin a modern horror classic. Yes, I said it. It is THAT good.
The first thing I feel compelled to tell you all is please, go at Kill List blind. Go watch it or stream it or preferably, buy it right now. Going into the movie knowing NOTHING about it was one of the things that made the film so f*cking powerful to me. It was a one-two punch I just did NOT see coming, and that is how you should see Kill List, too.
Also, see it twice. Don’t do it back to back, but watch it one week, let it sink in, and watch it again the next. That is the best way to take it all in and appreciate just how many levels were working perfectly. But, if you need a little more than that before you jump blindly into a volcano, I’ll give you the set up, but that is it. No spoilers. This film will spoil your soul as it is, doesn’t need me helping.
Female Jesus just couldn’t get the crown right, poor thing.
Kill List is too complex a story for me to simply lay out to you without ruining what makes it so great. My goal with this article is simply to make you NEED to see the movie. So what is Kill List about, without me ruining it?
Kill List is the story of a man named Jay, who works as a hitman with his close friend Gal, ever since they left the military (for various reasons). We see pretty early on that Jay may have some real issues with rage, and we also get some insight into how his life at home with his wife Shel is not exactly Leave it to Beaver. It is clear they are trying to make it work for their son, Sam, but when they are not screaming at each other, it seems these two have nothing to say.
How hopeless do you like your hopelessness?
So Jay invites Gal and his new girlfriend, Fiona, over for dinner, and while all seems lovely, it is clear to see financial strains at home have led to a real detachment between Jay and Shel, and this boils over, even during dinner. What is eventually revealed is that Gal actually has a new job for them. This new job entails that they are going to be paid quite generously for taking the lives of some very bad people, three to be exact. Though all seems pretty straight forward at first, we see Gal’s girlfriend go into Jay’s bathroom during dinner and carve an odd symbol into the back of the mirror. This is the first of few indications that something is amiss. She also pockets a tissue that has some of Jay’s blood on it. And up to this moment I only thought it was my exes who did that.
I promise you will underestimate how disturbing this film is.
So we see Jay getting ready for the first kill, (and make no mistakes, it is a BRUTAL kill, not looking away once as a man gets his skull hammered) and we see a side to him we had not before. A pure animalistic side that seems to enjoy the violence of it all. A man who revels in how powerful he feels in these moments. And you can see it scares him a bit, as it does Gal. But the first kill scene has a few things that truly set it apart. This will be the first and only spoiler, and even then, it is one you would read in any review or article about this film, so fret not.
The first man Jay kills with the hammer is a Priest, and right before he hammers this man’s face to pulp, the man looks at him and genuinely says “thank you”. You see this cause Jay to pause for a second, but he brains the guy, regardless. Work is work, right? But at this point, we can already sense something ominous is at work, we just have no clue what that is.
It bothers me to no end how much Jay looks like Topher Grace in this pic, but rest assured, tis not the case with the actual film.
So Jay kills the priest, but was definitely affected by the “thank you”, which gets him questioning the job. He decides to still sticks with it for one more go, and him and Gal eventually go to do the second hit. This is the point when I will stop telling you what happens. I won’t spoil the slow mindfuck that unfolds in the last hour or so of this movie, but I can confidently say, the last hour of this movie absolutely pulls you in and just batters you with two fists until you cannot tell which way you are facing. The last thirty minutes pretty much beat you to death.
We won’t even discuss the last five.
This is how I look right after I eat at a drive-thru. Broken, covered in sauce, and disgusted with myself.
Ben Wheatley, who wrote and directed the film, did something remarkable here. He put horror back into horror movies. He throws things at us in such a way where we will have many questions, and I will admit this now and openly, not all of them get answered, but that is one of the best things about Kill List. As the final (unforgettable) scene plays out, you feel like you are there. You are meant to be standing there, covered in your own sweat, wondering what the hell just happened to you. That, my friends, at its core, is exactly what horror is.
And as much as I hate to set up endings for films, it is obvious to the viewer during the entire film that this movie is leading to a powerful revelation and conclusion of some sort, and where it goes during that climax and how it gets there is a game changer. The last horror film that left me feeling the way Kill List left me feeling was Funny Games. You do remember Funny Games, right? Kill List takes that nihilism and ups it by volumes.
If you like horror that fucks you all up, and if you like not being able to shake the rotten stink of a disturbing movie from your bones after watching it, you owe it to yourself to see Kill List. Also, Ben Wheatley’s addition to the recent horror anthology The ABC’s of Death, called Unearthed, was maybe my favorite short in the whole film, so he really is someone us horror lovers need to keep an eye on. The guy is going places. Scary, fucked up places.
Are they unassuming? Yes. Unforgettable? Yes. Kill List WILL stay with you long after the credits roll.
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