By Christopher Matos
Before going into a horrendously structured analysis of, Kill List directed, and written, by Ben Wheatley with Co-writer Amy Jump, I need to preface the following article with some honesty. My background in writing is not film; I’ve only ever enjoyed watching movies. My background is in Literature where, with a goal in mind, I had aimed to prove something to someone. I’ve always loved film more than literature, and in many ways my love for the art is why I kept so far from raking through it with a fine-toothed comb.
I’ve always viewed film critics as idiotic, or snobbish individuals whose ideals far exceed what was necessary, who pompously overlooked what the average person may find appealing. In my opinion criticism in general is rife with such flaws, often drawing conclusions founded in broken dreams, or missed opportunity. My main goal writing these articles is to be honest, to try to be fair, and present the perspective of your average movie-goer. So…
Have you seen “The Kill List?” This “Horror film” available on Netflix was in my opinion an interesting look inside a dysfunctional family. A pained family, that brutalized what it meant to be unemployed, and what some must do in order to survive which of course means murder people! Yay! In sitting down to view this film I had no expectations because realistically English indie horror films don’t often flash through my viewfinder. What I received was a movie that had peaks, and valleys, and to a guy whose hair stands up at the mention John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), I was somewhat disappointed with this billed horror film.
As a suspense thriller? In that respect it was average. Everything about this movie said, “that’s interesting, but why is it so familiar.” At times it was beautifully shot, taking me to Sheffield, South Yorkshire a decent suburb of England’s Humber region that, realistically, I couldn’t find on a map if you paid me. Holding your attention with the stark contrasts between the brutality of the unfolding story, and the quaint peaceful setting, you’re along for the somewhat predictable ride, which can be entertaining.
The introduction to the plot, and the character development, in some ways, helped the overall movie, however once it gets on the road I felt like I had seen some of it before. The “Former Hit men looking for a way to make money” plot takes us on a path that is both interesting, yet somewhat predictable. Its attempt at generating mystery causes subtle interest, as violence allows the main characters to take ownership of their lives. Poignant moments give us reflections of humanity, displaying how a disenfranchised man can artfully be fed up with the way things are, and that is what saved this movie for me. Insert your hit-man code of ethics, and comradery, and now you love these characters.
Certain themes throughout where beautifully articulated. The display of the broken home portrays the strength of the actors, and allows the script to truly shine. There are moments where, as an audience member, you are allowed to think slightly deeper than what is in front of you. You may begin to realize that to live “sins” or past regret is to be tortured forever for being human, whether a hit-man, or not. The thematic realization that we are a cog in a giant machine with only one goal: to destroy itself. This plays well here, and foreshadows the gripping ending.
The final scenes, and the overarching final descent into chaos was, by far, the best, or most suspenseful scenes despite, at times, being choked by its own script. I felt feeling uncomfortable and uneasy by the end, but the attempt at a hard shock was obvious, and somewhat unoriginal. The acting was good, the photography was good, and the story was okay. Obviously, a suspense film needs to keep you on your toes, keep you uncomfortable, and fearful of what’s to come. The Kill List had its moments.