The British film industry seems stuck in a spiral of dog-eared, grungily violent films, and Kill List is another depressing entry. Ben Wheatley’s feature gives us nothing new. Lacking the sparky edge-of-seat quality of Hush, a couple of years back, or the comedy-to-horror turnaround of The Cottage, Kill List meanders from domestic set-up to domestic violence, from hitman horror to ritual sacrifice.
Jay, seemingly unemployed, is under the thumb of his partner, an emasculated man following a recent breakdown. During a dinner party from hell, Jay snaps. And when his best mate offers a business proposition – a return to the game - Jay accepts. But the pair are hitmen and the kill list they’re given by an oily client leads them deeper into the heart of darkness. And backing out is a deadlier still.
At its best, Kill List simmers with barely suppressed foreboding as Jay reaches breaking point. But once the secret’s revealed, Wheatley’s direction can’t fulfil it. Instead, we get a diet of hammer-to-the-knees torture porn and a scramble through the sewers redolent of The Descent’s claustrophobic crawler violence. It’s not enough. Shot dully and grimily, there’s a leaden feel throughout. Clues meant to unsettle – what are the symbols on the back of the bathroom mirror; why do the victims say ‘thank you’ – aren’t creepy enough.
So the denouement is either obvious, laughable or both. Of course, it has to be downbeat, that’s a law with such movies. But whether it’s a shock and shudder ending or an eye-roller depends on your indulgence and whether you’ve seen real thrillers like France’s Switchblade Romance or the aforementioned Hush.
If blood, guts and a good laugh is all you want, then give it a spin. But if you’re after something scary, thought-provoking and unpredictable, save your money.