Saturday, July 16, 2011

RPIFF: Kill List (2011)

Welcome to the first blablahblahgay review from the Revelation Perth International Film Festival. 11pm is a ridiculous time to start watching a movie for me. Back when I was 16 you'd find me and my friend Owen wandering the dangerous streets of Stevenage waiting for the late night showing of whatever terrible movie we'd decided to see that weekend but now I can't remember the last time I was awake at 11pm let alone settling down to watch a film.

As already mentioned this week Kill List is Ben Wheatley's second film, following up the fantastic Down Terrace (reviewed recently here on blahblahblahgay,) with another piece of great cinema that highlights his maturing as a storyteller and growth as a film maker. This film is an enigma, it's difficult to categorise; for Ben Wheatley, genres are simply a guide, he lets his films go wherever they need to ignoring conventions and disregarding cliche. What starts out as a kitchen sink drama moves in to hitman territory quite quickly before evolving in to a serious what the fuck ending filled with mysticism and gore.

Jay is a former hitman, retired after he screwed up a previous job in Kiev (this fact pops up quite a bit throughout but is never explained) and living with his ex-Swedish military wife, Shel, in suburban England. The couple are broke and the wife, who subtly dominates the relationship, is pressuring him to go back to work. His former partner Gal (on orders from Shel) offers another job, killing 3 people, and Jay, reluctant at first, agrees.

What ensues is a mysterious journey focusing on the psychological changes in Jay and Gal, punctuated with gore filled scenes and a never ceasing increase in the nameless, shapeless dread that permeates the film. With an ending you know the less about the better before seeing.

It seems to be a major advertising point so I'm not spoiling anything here but the ending is truly horrifying, not in a modern torture porn way or in a lets make use of really loud noises to make you jump way but in a truly psychologically challenging manner. You may watch this film or hear about some of the violence contained within and think me crazy but Ben Wheatley makes very subtle movies and this mind-bending finale borders on ambiguous, there is blood and there is gore and there are shocking realisations but that all takes a back seat to the psychological study of the man. Not to mention trying to piece together exactly what the ending means.

At 2am I was thinking about this movie, all the way home we were trying to understand what happened, neither of us could actually state with 100% confidence what the ending was about. This is a film that not only deserves a second viewing but may need one so you can divorce yourself from the WTF factor and piece together the puzzle. Because hints are left throughout, religious undertones, a sigil carved in to the back of a mirror, victims happy to die, repeated requests for Jay to wake up, dead animals left in their garden, what are the red herrings and what is the explanation? You may even be watching again and again to clarify your own thoughts and you will be thoroughly entertained every time I'm sure.

At times this is a funny movie, with the comedy taken from the human interaction, not from the violence like some other movies. At other times it's deeply unsettling, the use of sound really helping to increase the tension; using strings and whistles, moans and backwards played speech and even the moments of silence to ratchet things up step by step. But mainly this movie is enjoyable as a fantastically well crafted film that utilises the handheld camera aesthetic to it's full claustrophobic best to unsettle before unleashing an ending that will impact on your daily life for weeks to come. Guaranteed.

Well that's a departure for blahblahblahgay. Anyone else seen this yet? I'd love to get some other opinions, leave some blah below. Next up Charlie Casanova.


  1. Nice review Toby. Now I'm looking forward to checking this one out.

  2. yes! i feel like i have achieved something worth while now bt. after all the great reviews from your blog that have made me anxious to see a film i feel i have contributed something back. i'm sure you'll review it and i look forward to reading your thoughts.

  3. Great review, I'm getting excited for this now! Nice to see it has some comedic undertones as well! It's going to be a middle film for me, seeing a Danish relationship drama before that, and Stake Land after since I missed it yesterday.

  4. Thanks anna I hope you're not disappointed. I laughed, but as with down terrace I'm used to the english behaviour so others may not get the humour. I keep getting stakeland confused with skateland, which apparently sucked. Stake land should be good though.