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DVD Review: ‘Kill List’

★★★☆☆

Over three months on from its theatrical release – and as we approach its DVD/Blu-ray release on 26 December – it’s still difficult to really get a grasp of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011). Despite two fantastically underplayed performances from Neil Maskell and Harry Simpson (who recently won a BIFA for his role), plus one of the most tangibly oppressive atmospheres you will find in any film this year, it still remains a ‘cut-and-shut job’ of sorts rather than the British horror classic that some critics have heralded it as.

The less said about the plot of Kill List the better, but in essence Wheatley’s film follows close friends Jay (Maskell) and Gal (Simpson) as they undertake a mysterious, violent contract for a shadowy client, with seemingly close ties to the two men’s time in the British Armed Forces. From its deceptively mundane introductory dinner party right through to its final climactic scene, Wheatley never gives too much (or, arguably enough) away to allow his audience to fall back into any sort of comfort zone.
For two thirds of Kill List, Wheatley (director of the critically acclaimed Down Terrace [2009]) proves himself to be an astute filmmaker, capable of cranking up the tension to some extraordinary heights through sound and vision – made all the more impressive when you consider that the feature was made for approximately £500,000.
However, the film’s final few scenes (taking their cues from classic thriller/horrors such as John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 [1976] and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man [1973]) have understandably left many viewers scratching their head in disbelief. Various theories have emerged attempting to explain away the perplexing denouement, with (it has to be said) less than satisfactory results.
Despite its more than slightly confusing finale, Kill List remains a purely cinematic experience that deserves to be seen for its physical and psychological evocation alone. Wheatley’s film is an engrossing, pitch back thriller/comedy/horror that constantly defies generic categorisation, whilst also consequently defying logical sense. Kill List stands tall as the ultimate cinematic ‘mind-fuck’ of 2011, and hopes will be high for Wheatley’s next project – a ‘dark comedy’ titled Sightseers (2013).

Daniel Green