Saturday, February 4, 2012

Foreign Fears: THE KILL LIST (2011) UK

Review by Nickolas Cook

The UK filmmakers are making some of the BEST horror movies in this new century. I had heard some great reviews of the movie, THE KILL LIST, in reading my usual websites of which I read whenever I want to know what the new hot titles are. Getting a review copy, sat down eagerly to see what director Ben Wheatley had created that was all the buzz in the chat horror rooms.

I’m here to tell you, Horrorheads. The praise wasn’t enough. I love, love, love this film. What makes it such a stunner of a movie is what happens to the protagonist by the film’s end. It will get you right in the gut. I promise that.

The plot goes, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) are former soldiers who have become hitmen since leaving the military. While Gal is laid back, Jay is still suffering from an unspecified disastrous mission in Kiev and, despite the urging of his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring), he hasn't worked since and they are running out of cash. Shel organizes a dinner party to which she invites Gal and his latest girlfriend, a human resources manager called Fiona (Emma Fryer), and during the evening Gal reveals he has a new job for them, which Shel encourages him to take. Meanwhile Fiona goes to the toilet, carves a symbol on the back of the bathroom mirror and takes a tissue that Jay had used to mop up his blood after a shaving accident.

Jay agrees to take the gig and the two meet the shadowy client who has a list of three people he wants killed and, unexpectedly, cuts Jay's hand leading to the contract being effectively signed in blood. Their first target, a priest, appears to recognize Jay and thanks him just before being killed. The second name on the list turns out to be a maker of child pornography who also thanks Jay before he is beaten to death. While Jay chases down some of the other paedophiles, Gal looks into their files and finds a folder on himself and Jay, including details of their problems in Kiev. Staking out the final mark, a Member of Parliament, they witness a strange ceremony in the woods, including a human sacrifice. They intervene but are outnumbered and get chased into a tunnel complex…and that’s all I’m going to tell about the plot. And if you want the film to have the proper impact, don’t go read about it anywhere.

The acting is topnotch, the camerawork is spot-on, many parts of the film had an eerie sort of THE WICKERMAN (1973) feel to it. Which I’m guessing by the end of the film’s impact that the similarity was on purpose. The music is dark and mood-intensifying. The kill scenes are brutal and very real looking. It makes me wince even now to think about the hammer scene. Jesus. Really, there isn’t enough room here to heap all the praise I’d like to, so check it out. Do it soon before someone tells you the end. That would ruin the impact of the film’s ending.

--Nickolas Cook