British “Indie” cinema produces some amazing films, and two of my top five films of this year fit into that category. After hearing a lot of buzz from the festival circuit about Kill List and seeing the numerous award nominations and wins it’s garnering, my interests were peaked, especially for a movie being boxed as a horror film. Much more along the lines of a twisted thriller, Kill List will fester inside your brain for weeks to come, even if you hate it or don’t understand it.
Jay and Shel are your typical young married couple who obsess over first world problems. Right now, Shel is fuming because Jay has not worked in 8 months and there is no money to fix the hot tub. A good man at his core, Jay flies off the handle often, only to come back down and apologize. That being said, he never raises his voice or his fist against his son. For being such a morally grounded person Jay’s job is somewhat unexpected; hitman for hire. His 8 month dry spell was prompted by a mishap on a job in Kiev that he is still working through. Jay’s best friend Gal comes for a dinner party at the somewhat unhappy couple’s place, under the guise that they are meeting his new girlfriend. Really, Gal is Jay’s working partner and is there to brief Jay on his first hit in those 8 months. Jumping back into the game comes easy to Jay, but the circumstances of his new job set off an array of strange events.
Kill List is a roller coaster ride that only travels upward. With only a slight hint of mystery wafting through, the first half of Kill List is fairly tame. A lot of arguing, drinking, making up, decent laughs, and verbally assaulting Christian prayer groups; other than a nasty gash on the hand, the tense nature of the story is relaxed. Then, the first hit comes, get ready for something crazy, but no. It’s quick and completely bereft of gory twisted detail. Maybe I was mislead as to what I was seeing. The second target gets treated with more malice as they know what he has done, and they are not happy about it. Things this time are a little more unsettling and hard to sit through, but still, nothing that hasn’t been seen before. That is until Gal leaves Jay alone with the subject. At that point the movie smacks you across the face with detailed madness you never would expect to see. Shocking and unrelenting, Kill List suddenly makes you forget it’s tame beginnings.
Blowing its load all in one moment, the film turns on a dime and starts to ramp up the weirdness dial and never lets go. Whether you’re focused on the Kafka-esque ride into oblivion or the odd Kiev MacGuffin, you can’t shake what Kill List is doing to your mind. Like an adult pulling a frightened child through a fun house, Kill List looks you in the eye to say, “Don’t worry, the bad man is gone, let’s keep going,” only to shove you into a pit of snakes who haven’t eaten in 10 days. It’s deplorable and a sick trick, but one you won’t forget in this lifetime.
Inhabited by young actors who have been wading through smaller parts in big films and grinding through BBC series’, the acting is top notch. Apart from Gal (played by comedian Michael Smiley who many may recognize as Tyres from the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg series, Spaced), many will wonder how they haven’t seen these faces before. Not letting the manic situations at hand take them into a world of ham-ish overacting, the performances lend credence to the seedy underbelly being portrayed.
Kill List is more of an experience than a cautionary tale. It delivers you a story, characters you can connect to (even if they do some bad things), and enough morality to pass as something more than a shocker. But that is what Kill List really wants to do; lead you into a dark place, let you leave, and challenge you to forget it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 ‘Staches