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An odd, and oddly effective, mix of hit-man thriller and cult horror,
KILL LIST is one of the most talked-about British horrors films in
recent years. Imagine my surprise, then, to see it premiering on
television a scant year after release, and of course I jumped at the
chance to catch up with what is by all accounts a controversial little
For the most part, KILL LIST works. It unsettles and creeps you out courtesy of lots of foreboding, ominous sequences (accompanied by music which is a little too overdone at times) punctuated by moments of stark and shocking violence. Writer/director Ben Wheatley does good to build the sense of mystery, keeping his character backgrounds shady and throwing in random clues that make little sense at the time but help build towards the feeling of something big as the climax approaches. It's also one of the nastiest mainstream films I've seen in a while, with one scene involving a hammer taking screen violence to a whole new level.
Sad, then, that the ending of this film is such a disappointment, an ambiguous tie-up that seems shoehorned in purely to provide a few more exploitative shocks instead of making any kind of sense whatsoever. The mystery is left just that, a mystery, and at times I was infuriated at the lack of resolution. The film also veers away from the modern day realism it has built beforehand to hark back to the Hammer Horror days of yesteryear. Not that I have a problem with Hammer films I love them, but in their own time and quaint-ish setting. The all-too-familiar horror tropes of the climax just feel overdone, coincidentally almost exactly the same problem I had with another recent watch, THE LAST EXORCISM.
The cast acquit themselves well with the script, for the most part, and there's a level of kitchen sink-style authenticity to much of the dialogue; also some natural, unforced humour which offsets all the nastiness. Neil Maskell is very good when his lead character is asked to do the more disturbing things, although I never quite bought him as the family man he's shown to be at the outset. Michael Smiley is equally as good as Maskell's buddy and colleague, and the film's central pairing works very well indeed. Original British horror cinema, with life and style all of its own (not merely following Hollywood trends), has stalled somewhat in the last decade, but with the likes of KILL LIST we could be in for something of a renaissance
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Kill List" opens up with a haunting symbol appeared on the first frame
along with a taunting music score.after wards the character were
introduced,they were an ordinary middle aged couple with typical family
problems. one of the first conflict was happened in the dinner table
where a general conversation turned into a sarcastic talks before one
of them get tempered and broke off the dinner. the plot of the movie
begin with a drama between a man and his wife being shoot with
realistic approach. it looks more like a drama instead of a
thriller.the dialog between each character were filled with swearing
and sarcastic conversation. some of these scene contain a few
violence,instead it is filled with short conflict that the movie felt
like a drama instead of thriller.
judging from the opening scene,the film contains a lot of metaphoric aspect surrounding its story and character.these metaphor were used by the director to unfold the theme and plot later in the movie. beginning with verbal violence and dark metaphor,the film quickly change its style when the true identities of the main character were unfold. Jay (Neil Maskell),a middle aged husband was turned out to be a hit-man along with his partner in crime Gal (Michael Smiley).they were on hiatus for several months before they back on their job as an contract hit-man.their job was given by a person being referred as "The Client",a mysterious figure who give Jay and Gal their target of assassination.these scene sparks the first intrigue that the movie was to offer which is how professionals hit-man doing their job. as the plot goes on so on the violent that were being shot constantly almost in every frame.what started as verbal and metaphorical violence,it is quickly turns into a graphical violence. Jay and Gal never knew the true identities of their target,their list of target was only referred by its professions.the first target is the priest as the title suggested on one full frame.these title of suggested target are being shown monotonously through the movie.it is a simple use of frame,yet it is also effective with the film ambiance.
What makes the film still worth to watch is the climax.when it reach the climax the film kind of transforms itself into a realistic horror movie. the suspense was build slowly in each frame as the character Jay and Gal discovered their last target being a cult leader.using a wide shot and a variety of moving discovery shot,director Ben Wheatley managed to depict a natural sense of suspense and thrill as the viewer could fully grasp the horrific action that was happening on the scene. it is basically the redemption of the entire dull moment that happened before reaching the climax of the stories.
"The Kill List" has a great climax that will make viewer forgive its early mistake and starting to realize that the movie has its moment despite the slow build up and the violence that somehow felt over the top and unnecessary through the half portion of the movie. Nevertheless,this movie may not be the game changer of the thriller genre or this year best movie,but director Ben Wheatley is definitely not clueless about the genre of thriller and he is certainly know how to build up a good suspense when is desperately needed.
Why is it that those who gave this film a poor score always tend to
need answers or expect plausible conclusions? Why must everything be
spelled out for them as if they need their hand held throughout the
entire film. I expect 90% of those who rated this film poorly to be
unsophisticated, close-minded, morons with no taste in art and lack
basic creative faculty - these are the people that think they know
everything, but understand nothing, and it scares the crap out of them.
This film is the Director's execution of contemporary abstract filming art molded into a realist shell - a masterpiece. It does not dwell fully, and completely, in the abstract space; It maintains a fine balance between abstract and concrete realism, so as not to bore the viewer.
What I love most about this movie is the fact that the director fools the audience into thinking they're watching a realism based movie; Which is why when you try explaining the movie to someone verbally, they'll stare at you with the 'deer in the headlights' look. This movie isn't meant to have its story spoken of or written about in its entirety, but meant to be watched, meant to be thought about, and meant to be felt. Very much like abstract art - you can try to explain it, but you'll end up just confusing yourself and those you try to explain it to - especially when explaining the whole piece and not just a section.
And speaking about feeling - this film will test your wits. This has got to be the most brutal, intense, shock-based piece of art, I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot.
This movie is a brilliant master piece in Contemporary Abstract Filming Art and I commend the Director, Actors, Writers, and all those involved with making this stunning-shocking-nerve-wracking, thought provoking, controversial film.
Wow, amazing film, this is sure to be a cult classic in years to come
after the end credits start rolling you'll find yourself speechless,
staring in to space and mumbling (I'm serious that is literally what I
was doing after the credits). But wait, let me rewind for you - I'm
quite the fan of Neil Maskell, I commend his efforts at portraying the
hard man with humour, sometimes bordering on insanity and guaranteed to
always get himself in sticky situations
. so when I watched this film I
had no knowledge of what to expect other than Neil was playing the lead
role and that it was about two hit men on an assignment with a big
I guess I did myself a favour because the less you know about
the film the more shocking it becomes as it progresses, the more you
get sucked in to the dark brutal nature of their line of work, feeling
a combination of claustrophobia, uneasiness - mixed in with some
moments of dark humour. For me, the scariness didn't lie in some of the
brutal torture scenes, it was the eeriness and weirdness that
accompanied them that I found chilling. This film doesn't stick to one
genre, it progresses from one to the other, getting darker and darker
as time goes by
. You feel like you're on a roller-coaster of emotions,
humorous moments come side by side with outbursts of rage
scenes come right before happy family moments
all I have to say is
hats off to Ben Wheatley for some truly brilliant directing. However I
try to describe it, I cannot prepare you for the journey you're about
to embark on, but know this - I guarantee it will stay in your mind for
What really gets to me is how many people have claimed 'Kill List' to have a horrible and pointless ending I tend to disagree, let us all remember one important factor -this movie isn't a 'Hollywood' production . It's a British movie and one thing the British are excellent at is getting across realism, characters that you can relate to (at least on some level). Hollywood has produced many gems in the past, but in my opinion that trend died sometime in the 90's and now days it's hard to find a film that isn't dumbed down for the audience and spoon fed to you starring the usual mumbo jumbo A-List Hollywood celebrities who care nothing of quality and choose roles based on the bigger pay check, harboring absolute zero integrity.
Why can't people accept that not all movies have happy endings, life is a series of ups and downs, we don't always have the privilege of 'closure' in every given situation. The directors purposely want to put you in the unknown, they want you to draw your own conclusions (it wasn't a mistake), there are many scenarios one can draw from the ending and each and every one of them may be plausible the ending is what you make of it.
Kill List shines in all aspects of horror. Director Ben Wheatley sets a
grim, atmospheric tone and displays shocking/harrowing imagery
throughout. He depicts Neil Maskwell's character as a merciless human
being on a path toward insanity. Wheatley hints at satanic nuances and
bleak revelations without letting you breathe. It is deeply engrossing,
disturbing and will leave the viewer shaken. If one lusts for such
unsettling, perturbing, and grim satire they will undeniably be
satisfied by this film.
The film does have it's flaws but are subtle and can easily beer looked ov The accents are inherently harsh and inhibit the viewer to increase the volume during some scenes. However, if you enable the subtitles,this will undoubtedly avoid this problem all together.
-Marcus Becker- (www.mooviepedia.com)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Reaction to kill list will depended on what sort of movie goer you are. If you are looking for a normal Saturday night flick this film is sure to irritate you and possibly bore you. Instead of the normal jump tactics employed by most horror films you are presented with a bleak unsettling tale of a hit-mans life and relationships disintegrating into madness as he eliminates people on a kill list. In essence its a actors film,most telling shown by its use of improvised dialogue. The director and script writer at times are more concerned with the characters motivation than the story leaving you to join up the dots. Additionally its abrupt left field ending inspired by the Wicker man will baffle many. If however you are looking for a original independent British film this may float your boat. Seldom has a descent into darkness been so harrowingly presented on the small screen. A word of warning the violence in this film is particularly gratuitous and is not for the squeamish. For the independent film buff a possible cult film in the the making. Any one else will not understand what the fuss is about .
My summary says how I feel about it, but that being said: this is not a
film for everybody (it's brutal--but not senseless). You must be
open-minded and adventurous, the type of viewer who enjoys when art
films intersect with b-movies. I can't comprehend someone giving this
film one star--although perhaps the fact that Kill List can elicit such
hate speaks more to its strengths than its weaknesses.
Watch this film knowing as little as possible about it.
I think people dislike it because it is surprising--it is not a relationship film, it is not a hit-man film, and it is not a horror film. It is all three, and the ways in which these different ideas intersect I found very interesting.
After watching Kill List read the interview with director Ben Wheatley over at the Cinema Scope blog.
Being the Horror freak that I am, I like to give all different sub-
genres a chance, and to try out films from all over the world. Kill
List wasn't the first British film I've seen, and I'm glad for that, as
it might have given me a very wrong impression of British Horror.
I'm not exactly sure what so say about this film. It starts as a very realistic family drama, with economical problems leading to much tension, many arguments and fights. We are drawn towards the Neil Maskell's character, Jay, an unemployed husband and father struggling to feed his family. Then we find out he's a hit-man, and not one that works for the state or for vigilantes.
The film unfolds as Jay finds out some gruesome facts about the people on his "list". His reactions are not those of a cold blooded killer, but of a very human husband and father. In a way - a nice portray of the human soul.
And then, out of the blue, some questions are planted in our minds - never to be answered. New aspects are shoved into the plot, and the final part is hard to understand and hard to follow. Personally, it felt like someone had violently beat the script into being "Horror", and that's a shame.
I might have been more impressed with the ending had I not seen it coming the moment the scene began, perhaps my fault for having watched a few Horror films before this one.
It's just my personal humble opinion, of course, but I can't say this film was any good. Some Horror films aren't "fun" to watch, but are still good. This one isn't one of them. Can't recommend it, and can't in any way understand how come great films get lousy rates while this film gets 6.2. Never trust IMDb rating, never trust the reviews, always judge for yourselves. But if you ask me - find something better to watch.
So I heard a few things about Kill List and the feedback it got was
very mixed. When I heard it was a British indie film about assassins, I
started to get a little intrigued and thought I'll give it a go.
The film follows a family man with typical family problems who is suffering from an apparent disastrous mission failure in Kiev which has left him unstable. As an ex-soldier he now carries out contract killings with his friend Gal and the film tries to follow them from one target to the other, hence the title.
The film starts with a few great scenes which introduces the characters in a way that throws you into the deep end. A nice reminder of how great British drama can be.......however, I'm afraid to say that's where the positives end.
As the actual killings begin, the tone of the film just completely changes. The film starts in such an emotional way and the tension built between the husband and wife is so well done that it cannot possibly prepare you for the rest of the film. By this stage the film has already lost it's grit and blinds you with so many needlessly violent moments that it just feels out of place and to be honest gets a little boring.
Unfortunately it doesn't end there. The film is all over the place. After an hour spent watching stupid violence and troubled tempers the plot just becomes an absolute mess. I physically pulled a confused face which said 'huh?'. It leaves disconnected dots concerning a few characters and you are literally saying 'who?, what?, where?, why?' for most of the time......and this is BEFORE the climactic moments which has left a lot people angry and frustrated.
The film's director Ben Wheatley has obviously had a head full of great ideas for this film and tried to cram as much of it as he can into 90 minutes. For a low budget film it's been way too ambitious and has fallen flat on its face.
What a shame.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A monkey wrench is thrown into the plot of "Kill List" very early on.
It's a scene in which a woman, who up until now we believed was merely
a regular person, carves a satanic symbol into the backside of a mirror
hanging in her friends' bathroom. For the next hour, we follow a plot
that shows little if any connection to this scene. When you spend all
your mental energy trying to formulate some kind of explanation, you're
liable to have a hard time concentrating on what else is happening. We
then arrive at the last act, at which point an entire cult has found a
way in. It's pretty much what you expect it to be; a large group of
people wearing straw masks and carrying torches slowly march through
the woods in the middle of the night. Some are in white robes. Others
are completely naked. Others still have a band of thorns wrapped around
They pave the way for a final scene that's not only reprehensible but is also structurally, thematically, and characteristically impossible. Absolutely nothing had been leading to this particular moment. In that sense, you can say the ending "works"; it was successful in its efforts to be outrageous and disturbing. I, for one, believe that being shocking strictly for the sake of being shocking is offensive, gratuitous, and pointless. Is there something I'm missing, here? Or am I another one of those annoying killjoys that wouldn't know a good thriller even if it came up and bit me? There's evidence to support the latter. I am, after all, the guy who included "A Serbian Film" and both "Human Centipede" films on my worst-of-the-year lists. Needless to say, I'm undesirable in some circles.
"Kill List" is bizarre, unfocused, and deeply unpleasant. It utilizes two very different genres a crime thriller and supernatural horror and yet at no point do they successfully combine into a cohesive whole. It's a little like watching scenes from two separate movies fighting for the same space. More time is spent on the crime portion, which would have been fine if only the filmmakers had mustered up enough of a plot to engage us with. Much of the middle section is comprised of hit killings so relentlessly violent that even Martin Scorsese would think they were over the top. The rest of the film is spent on awkward character development, made worse by dialogue that's rarely loud enough for us to hear. I don't place much blame on the actors. It seems more an issue of sound mixing; the lows are too low and the highs are too high. You know something is wrong when one minute you're leaning forward straining the listen and the next you're covering your ears so that they don't bleed.
But before we even get to the parts dealing with hit killings, we must first endure scene after scene of a man named Jay (Neil Maskell) fighting with his Swedish wife, Shel (MyAnna Buring). He has a set of lungs on him, and she takes her frustrations out on him physically, always pounding on his chest with her fists. All their fights are intercut with shots of them making up or otherwise acting neutral, confusing matters even further. Caught in the middle is their young son, Sam (Harry Simpson). Also drawn in are Sam's friend, Gal (Michael Smiley), and his girlfriend, Fiona (Emma Fryer). We first see them at a dinner party hosted by Jay and Shel. We think the evening ends when Jay furiously pulls the table cloth out from under everyone's plate, but no; not long after, all four of them are laughing it off over glasses of wine. Are these people manic depressives?
The setup is easy enough to understand. Jay was at one time a soldier. He then made the transition to contract killing and stayed with it until a mission in Kiev went horribly wrong. Eight months have passed, and he's desperately low on cash, which frequently incurs the wrath of Shel. Gal, who also happens to be Jay's partner, comes to him with an assignment for three killings. There will, of course, be a substantial payoff, although the client insists on sealing the deal by slitting his own palm as well as Jay's. Off go Jay and Gal. The first two hits comprise more time than is needed and are excessive in their brutality. It's not like it is in a teen slasher film, where gore tends to be camped up for laughs these people are seriously getting their brains blown out, and their kneecaps smashed with a hammer, and their faces beaten to bloody pulps against a wall.
It doesn't take long for the plot of "Kill List" to run completely off the rails. We will see the mysterious remains of some poor animal on Jay's lawn, Jay actually cooking the meat and eating it to prove a point, a cat that has been slaughtered and left hanging outside Jay's front door, and a woman who hangs herself, apparently as a sacrificial offering. The people who watch this happen will applaud. All this time, we're still pondering the meaning of that satanic symbol and why it was placed on the back of that mirror to begin with. The ending is of absolutely no help in this regard. In fact, the only thing the ending manages to do is confuse and offend. Was that the point of this movie? I guess some filmmakers prefer messing with their audiences to actual storytelling. I don't really what the case is, here. What I do know is that I hated this movie.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
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