Friday, 8 February 2013

Kill List (2011)

Just going to be honest and throw my hands up: I'm not sure I "got" Kill List.

It's very much an arthouse horror/thriller film. Jay is a former soldier, as are his wife and best friend-come-business-partner, and he's been out of work for nearly a year after something went horribly wrong on his last job in Kiev. His last job as a contract killer, that is.

Thrust back into the world of hired murder by money worries, his wife's nagging and his friend's encouragement to "get back on the horse", things start to get a little strange as the pair make their way through the list of targets. And don't you worry, you see every second of them making their way through the targets. Kill List is a violent film. It's few and relatively far between, but when the time for violence comes it comes with no apologies. There's one particular scene that hammers it home; we've been so conditioned by tv and film to expect a cutaway at certain moments of violence in film, to sanitise the experience and spare the viewer the real horror of it, that it comes as a real shock when the camera just keeps rolling. You'll definitely know which scene I mean when you see it.

Kill List doesn't answer a lot of the questions it sets up. Not exactly at least. There's a lot of puzzle pieces that you start to put together once you've stopped reeling from the strange turn of events in the closing act. The pieces don't form a complete picture but it's massively open to interpretation and that's a wonderful thing.

But regardless of whether I "got it" or not (I think I might do now that I've stewed over it for an hour or so), Kill List does a great job with atmosphere. Long exposition scenes at the start build up a brilliantly tangible sense of the secret lives of the new middle class as Jay's occupation and past is gradually revealed. A creeping sense of unease builds gradually through the film, from one or two "What the fuck was that about?" moments at the start to a succession of occult and strange happenings towards the end. The soundtrack and these moments of unease  work seamlessly together to build a brooding sense of increasing darkness as we venture down the rabbit hole of both Jay's messed up psyche and the seedy underworld of killing for unknown figures with unknown motivations, where the killers can be simple pawns or even bigger players than they realise.

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