Kill List (2011/12)

It's become apparent over the last few years that Robin Hardys "The Wickerman" has had a profound influence on modern horror cinema. Two recent releases from the British isles "Wake Wood" and "Kill List" proudly and unabashedly wear their "Wickerman" influences on their sleeves. I took a look at "Wake Wood" recently (Wake Wood (2011) ). I found it intriguing, if not a little paint by numbers. The second of these films "Kill List" is much more difficult to categorize.

Neil Maskell plays Jay, a war veteran and former hitman. Jay is comfortable staying at home with his wife Shel (MyAnna Burning) and young son enjoying their company and avoiding the violence of his former life. Soon however, the money begins to run out. Living on an ever tighter budget, Shel begins to push Jay to get a new job. Jay doesn't hesitate to push back. The tension between them becomes more and more palatable with every passing day finally exploding at an ill timed at a dinner party. After the histrionics of the party, Jay is approached by his former partner Gal (Michael Smiley) regarding a simple hit man job with a rather large pay day. Jay drags his feet before eventually realizing the only way to save his family is to return to the one thing he hates the most.

As Jay and Gal begin working down their "kill list" they begin to recognize a pattern developing between their victims. Thinking they are on to something much bigger, Jay and Gal get deeper involved in their own brand of vigilante justice. Jay seems to be enjoying every kill with more and more perverse pleasure as the horrid acts of their victims are revealed. But much as in films like "The Wickerman" all is not as it seems in Jay and Gals world or with the "boss" they think they are working for.

The third act takes a head first plunge in to theater of the bizarre, with an ending that will leave you scratching your head for days. It's an act and an ending that will turn a lot of people off. If you can get into it and you buy it, then you will be a huge fan of the film. If not you may have a hard time seeing and understanding what the film makers intended.

Muddy third act or not, the acting is superb. The bond between Jay and Cal seems genuine and deep. It's something only two people that have been through what they went through can share. Maskell is amazing as he descends into an almost frenetic madness while falling deeper and deeper into his own hell. His journey from a man who just wants to be home with his family, to borderline psychotic killer is brilliant.

The film looks great. The color palate here fits the mood of the film to a T. Director Ben Wheatley paces the film brilliantly. Specifically set up into three distinct acts, the formatting serves to keep what could be a very dense story, easier for the viewer to digest. It lulls you into a sense of comfort until that third act, when the curve balls start coming and knocking you on your ass.

"Kill List" is showing up on a lot of year end best of lists, mainly over at Blood Disgusting where Mr. Disgusting himself, Brad Miska named the film the best of the year. I can't say I share his enthusiasm. It's a good film, but the third act didn't feel natural enough. In contrast to it's big brother "The Wickerman" where the final scene, while shocking, still feels like a satisfying ending. Kill Lists final scene leaves more questions than answers and a little too much emptiness inside. Everyone should see it, that I don't dispute, but be prepared to feel a little unsatisfied as you leave the theater.

*** stars out of *****

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