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John’s Horror Corner: Kill List (2011), a most grounded British pseudo-folk horror.

May 4, 2022

MY CALL:  This film is not your fun popcorn Friday night thriller, though a thriller it is. Rather this is your higher-brow, hush and pay close attention thinker, as you’ll constantly find your curiosity tickled as you wonder what is really going on. A bit intense, graphic gore at a few brief times, and harrowingly grounded.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Kill ListWhile completely dissimilar in subgenre and delivery, I’m inclined to suggest patient yet dire atmospheric revelations like The House of the Devil (2009), The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015), Midsommar (2019), The Witch (2016), Hereditary (2017) and The Dark and the Wicked (2020).

Having fallen on tough financial times, Jay (Neil Maskell; The Mummy, Peaky Blinders, Doghouse) and Shel (MyAnna Buring; The Descent, The Witcher) suffer a strained marriage as their fights become more frequent over Jay’s long absence from gainful employment. Still, Jay and Shel clearly care for each other and their son very dearly. When they have their friends Gal (Michael Smiley; Freefire, Gunpowder Milkshake, The Hallow, The Nun) and Fiona (Emma Fryer; In the Dark) over for dinner, a tempting work opportunity is presented—Jay and Gal are hitmen, and the work opportunity is a series of three hits.

This film takes its time introducing us to Jay and Gal, this mysterious triple-or-nothing job, and their inner workings. As their ‘work’ is underway, there’s something strange about their first target, and something equally strange about Fiona’s behavior around Jay and Shel’s house. The greater plot is an enigma, and I’m expecting some deep cuts to be revealed. The story seems rather straightforward—a little too straightforward. We know something is afoot, we just don’t know what. As the story proceeds, Jay begins to lose it. And a hitman on the job losing it is, well, very unnerving.

We enjoy some brutal knee, hand and skull mutilation; exposed entrails; and numerous flesh wounds. The scenes are just plain mean, yet very grounded and unsensationalized at the same time. Keeping things more tempered, the atmosphere is very dry. Dry delivery, unpredictably manic behavior, and an ominous job all leave me begging to know what’s behind the proverbial door.

The plot ever thickens, but slowly, ultimately arriving to a conclusion that I find bizarre and inexplicable. Not sure I was happy with where it ended up—I was quite impressed with some aspects of it, but not others. I wanted to know more, but we all know that knowing more rarely produces a satisfying answer. And I’m sorry to say that upon “sight” of the finale, I immediately predicted the ending twist. By some freak movie-going experiences, I’ve essentially seen this exact twist more than once before (in another folk horror film for at least one such incident). Although, that’s not to say this wasn’t an engaging film, or that the big twist shouldn’t be shocking and disturbing to most viewers.

And to be fair, another opinion from this very website found the movie yet more impressive than I did–REVIEW. So take my opinion with a grain of salt, or even a few shakes. Director and co-writer Ben Wheatley (Freefire, The ABCs of Death U is for Unearthed) did a great job delivering patient, grounded horror in a package that felt largely original—a very difficult conquest in the horror genre!

 

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