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How Kill List and I didn’t match

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I try not to care about the stars, I really do, but sometimes there are so many of them that I can’t avoid taking notice.

The cover of Kill List was cramped with five star ratings and enthusiastic quotes from reviews.

“The most original, unsettling and cerebrally menacing British film of the decade so far”, said Financial Times and I raised my eyebrows questioning for a second. I didn’t know Financial Times was such an authority on horror movies. Perhaps it was a result of the finance crisis in Europe, the imagination running wild among desperate businessmen?

Total Film, who should know what they were talking about, chimed in, calling it “the best British horror film in years”. And then I remembered: wasn’t this on my favourite critic Mark Kermode’s top 10 list of 2011?

With all those recommendations from trustworthy people it couldn’t possibly go wrong, could it?

But it did. It went so very wrong between me and Kill List.

Three different films
Since this is a low-budget film which barely has made it out of the festival circuit, I can imagine you haven’t heard of it before. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but basically it’s about two hit men who get hired to take care of a few people. As they’re working their way through the list, things get increasingly violent and it turns out that this is something that goes beyond their ordinary missions.

This sounds like a fairly ordinary horror movie, but it’s not. It’s a strange creature of a film, shifting completely in tone and style over time. For a brief moment I thought to myself that something must have happened in the editing, where they by mistake cut and pasted together three different films.

The first part is the introduction of the character, a family drama, where we see one of the hit men having endless arguments with his wife since they’re running short of money and she thinks he needs to take a job. There’s nothing wrong about discussions over the kitchen sink, but it’s something I expect from a completely different set of British directors à la Leigh or Loach, not from a 1,5 hour long horror movie. I think it took about half an hour before they left the marriage issues and got started on a mission.

The next part of the film is the gruesome killing, which is no short of Drive in its level of violence.

And then there’s the final, which I won’t reveal anything about, but which has very little to do with the movie until that point. This is where the label “horror movie” becomes more appropriate, since they’re making use of a very old cliché that I think was scarier back in the 70s than it is now.

One by one the three parts are well made and well played; the problem is the disharmony that occurs when you put them together in one movie. It’s like serving ice cream with mustard. It’s like wearing a tuxedo top to your jogging trousers.

It just doesn’t match, and it doesn’t get better by the abrupt ending, which made me scratch my head and put out the question: WTF?

I had gone through an entire movie, accepting that it was more than a little strange. I kept telling myself that they were planting stuff and that eventually I would get to enjoy the fruits of it; there would surely be pay-offs. But there weren’t any, apart from a rather silly twist. I felt cheated. I had expected to get a story; what I got was fragments and if I wanted to put it together to a one entity I would have to figure it out for myself.

Lack of chemistry
For all my complaints I wouldn’t advice true horror movie fans from giving this a try. After all it’s got all those stars on the cover and I’m not a full fledged fan of the genre. Maybe you will discover something that I missed. 

But the relationship between me and Kill List wasn’t meant to be. We didn’t have the right chemistry.

Kill List (Ben Wheatley, UK, 2011) My rating: 3/5

Written by Jessica

July 3, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Kill List