Kill List (2011)


Director: Ben Wheatley

Stars: Neil Maskell, Myanna Burning, Michal Smiley

The best British horror film since Eden Lake

I made a point of not knowing anything about Kill List before I watched it. Well, obviously I’d heard about it and knew it was about a hit-man, and I assumed that the symbol on the front cover was about a cult or something, but other than that I knew nothing. I didn’t watch the trailer and I didn’t read the back of the DVD because a few people had suggested that the film would be best if you knew nothing about it beforehand. Rather like The Ordeal and The Cabin in the Woods, both are incredible films on first viewing (and on repeated). I’m glad I did. I’ll try not to spoil anything in this review, but I’d recommend that you don’t read this one or any other. All you need to know is that I’m going to be raving about it!


For me, Kill List is on par with French horror in its visual style and disturbing unfolding. If you don’t know, I’m a French horror nut! Inside and Martyrs happen to be my favourite horror films of all time, and I’d highly recommend them (and many more!) if you you’re a French horror virgin. Kill List just has the amount of balls that French horror has and isn’t afraid to go to very dark places. What’s great about the film is that it’s a horror film disguised as a thriller which makes the ending ten times more impactive and disturbing than it already is. But more on the ending later.

Kill List gripped me from the moment it started with the creepy cult symbol dominating the opening credits. Although for the majority of the film it plays out in typical thriller fashion, the unnerving edits and atonal music lets you know that something is not right. It’s a suspense which carries the film to a phenomenal level and creates a oppressive atmosphere throughout. We’re immediately introduced to the main characters, a devoted father, his wife and his friend, as well as his friend’s dodgy new girlfriend. I really liked the characters, and they’re developed beautifully as the film progresses, as we realise that these people aren’t your conventional heroes in the slightest.


The characters felt very human and real. The man and his wife have a somewhat fiery relationship and are clearly strapped for cash. Luckily the man’s friend happens to be a hit-man and an old man is offering a lot of cash for three targets, so they accept. From then on the film unfolds in an exceptionally gripping manner as we see the duo carry out their complicated kill list. It’s done in a very realistic manner with a hand-held camera narrating much of the atmospheric story. There’s a great section where the man’s friend (Gal, I think he’s called?) waits in the car for his friend to carry out a hit, but Gal gets worried after his gone for some time, so he gets out and the camera follows him all in one suspenseful and gripping shot so we can see the horror in the rawest fashion.

Of course this isn’t your typical hit-man movie, although it is the most gripping one I’ve seen. The targets are unusual and a title card flashes up on the screen for each one which I loved as it shows them as labels to kill, not humans. The killers are shown as more human than the victims and the duos fiery relationship only serves to increase the tension. There’s a sense of unease with every kill, each is carried out in the most brutal and realistic fashion and certainly does not glamorise violence. There’s also a feeling that not all is what it seems throughout the film and the final third certainly reveals that.


The final half an hour or so is incredibly gripping with an ending that is genuinely frightening. The film takes a surprising and incredibly interesting turn which no one could see coming. There’s even a thrilling chase sequence which echoes the claustrophobic panic of REC and The Descent. It’s the final moments of Kill List which makes the film truly brilliant. It’s stupendously creepy and is horror that will resonate with you for days. I literally gasped in shock and sat there stunned and jaw-dropped throughout the credits. It’s powerful stuff which requires you to think and really creeped me out. Those final moments of Kill List will never leave me. Unless I get amnesia or something.

Kill List is one of the best British horror films I’ve seen. It did unhinge me and I was gripped throughout its tight running time. Kill List is true horror with great acting and a twisting screenplay which kept me on my toes. The directing also blew me away with some terrific slow-motion shots and hand-held camera which only added to the realism as it often felt more like a documentary than a film. The ending is terrifyingly intense and has just the right amount ambiguity to make you feel severely unnerved. I can’t sing enough praises for it, although it will fly over many people’s heads (which is clearly evident). To me and everyone else it will remain as one of the best horror films of the decade.



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