Kill List

Kill List

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
IFC Films

Release date (US): February 3rd, 2012
Certificate (US): TBC
Running time: 90 minutes

Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley
Composer: Jim Williams

Cast: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley

Europe has a long history of ritual killings and human sacrifices, and stories about them go as far back as 700 BC. From Ancient Greece, spreading through to England, they’re as varied as they are bloody and brutal.

Kill List is a film which brings us back to that dark part of human nature, but places the story in present time, with a seemingly ordinary family who become entwined in something far more sinister than they bargained for.

Kill List

Written and directed by Ben Wheatley, the story centres on Jay (Neil Maskell) who lives with his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) and their young son. They’re far from being a happy family, Jay is suffering from the effects of a job he took on eight months previously and though he claims to have a bad back, Shel thinks he’s fit enough to go back to work. Even his son thinks he’s become a bit of a lazy dad around the house.

Jay decides to go back to work and takes on a well paid job with his best friend Gal (Michael Smiley), but we soon learn what the job entails. The pair are given a kill list and on it are the names and details of individuals ranging from a priest, a librarian and an MP. Don’t be fooled though, these aren’t innocent men, and they’re not being targeted because unpaid gambling debts either. They’re being targeted because they are very, very bad people.

Kill List

As Jay and Gal get to work, we see Jay’s true nature come through, the facade of the lazy, sloppy dad at home falls to reveal a determined killer, a man who will stop at nothing until those on his list are a blood soaked, pulpy mess on the floor. Whether it’s a bullet, hammer or fist to the head, he gets the job done and there’s nothing Gal can do but clean up at the end, something which causes tension for them later on as well.

Jay starts to stray from the list and go after a group of sadistic men, but when his family’s cat is strung up outside their front door he starts to feel this could be a message and they try to break the contract. Unfortunately Jay and Gal’s boss isn’t willing to let them go and send them back to finish the job.

Kill List

Kill List is an unusual film, slightly baffling but very intense in the way that that the story sets us up with this mundane kind of family life before exposing us to the violence and terror that Jay unleashes. We’re lured in by the domestic ups and downs of this Sheffield-based family, watching them arguing and tossing plates over at dinner parties and you might mistake it for a soap, but that quickly changes.

The tension mounts as the final kill on their list takes them deep into the woods but what they witness there is beyond what either of them can comprehend. It’s disturbing and at times reminiscent of The Wicker Man (1973) or the more recent A Serbian Film (2010). We don’t learn very much about the organisation that hires them and even at the end you’ll still be asking “WHAT?” In every sense it’s a mystery, but that’s part of what’s so enjoyable about Kill List; you keep going over the story in mind.

The moments of terror are nicely balanced with humour and Maskell and Smiley have great chemistry together as best friends who seem to have been through a lot together. There were a few moments when I noticed people in the audience wincing and turning their faces from the screen, but if you’re into horror, this is what you’ll want to see. It’s a nicely woven modern horror that’s emotionally and visually unsetlling. It’s a hell of journey.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.