Day 27: Kill List

Kill List (2011)

Never has the line “Thank you” had a weirder effect than in the genre bending adventure Kill List.

Hitman Jay (a volcanic Neil Maskell) is wary to take another job after the botched Kiev assignment, but his bank account is empty and his wife Shel (an also eruptive MyAnna Buring) has become vocally impatient about carrying the financial load. But this new gig proves to be seriously weird.

Without ever losing that gritty, indie sensibility, Ben Wheatley’s fascinating film begins a slide in Act 2 from crime drama toward macabre thriller. You spend the balance of the film’s brisk 95 minutes actively puzzling out clues, ambiguities and oddities. (The often impenetrable accents don’t exactly help with this sleuthing). The “What the hell is happening?” response to a film is rarely this satisfying.

As Kill List drifts toward its particular flavor of horror, Wheatley pulls deftly from some of the most memorable films of a similar taste. But because the less you know about this film the more fascinating it is, I won’t cover those here except to say: Nicely done!

Performances are disconcerting but well played. Michael Smiley, in particular, offers an outstanding supporting turn as the likeable mate. His longing, good nature, and conflicted religious leanings make not only for an intriguing gun-for-hire, but also an emotional anchor for the film.

For those looking for blood and guts and bullets, Kill List will only partially satisfy and may bewilder by the end. But audiences seeking a finely crafted, unusual horror film may find themselves saying thank you.

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