Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kill List

PCMR Verdict: Whoa, Nelly! This sure ain't a date movie, but it does manage to be compelling, shattering and original, dark, evil and twisted all at the same time.

PCMR Rating: 8/10

At its best, cinema is transportation. The best stories quietly shift spectators from their surroundings, and, for a couple of hours at least, send them somewhere else entirely. Of course, this displacement is nothing but a pleasurable illusion, in which the audience is entirely complicit. Willing, even. However, even with a willing audience, this most delicate form of transit can be brutally derailed by any number of small missteps in script, dialogue or story.

Occasionally though, the magic is maintained right through to the end, and this makes a film more memorable. Seven, The Matrix and Twelve Monkeys all managed it for PCMR, but everyone has their own personal list of flicks that were fully and completely absorbing for themselves. As I emerged from the cinema blinking and disoriented after watching 'Kill List', I found myself enjoying the singular feeling of being completely blind-sided: Kill List has a genuine claim to join PCMR's list.

Director Ben Wheatley has divined a number of influences for this confounding horror/thriller/domestic cautionary tale, but has somehow packaged them together into something new and interesting. It's best described as a horror, but frankly and violently resists traditional pigeon-holing.

It begins quietly, with an up-close view of a family, with all its domestic tensions, from a perspective not unlike Mike Leigh's. A row at a dinner party quickly gives way to guns in the garage, however, and suddenly there is blood on the screen. All too quickly, there are eerie Michael Haneke-style undercurrents in play which unsettle and swerve, before the movie shifts gear into full blown bloody violence, horror, and ultimately, the jaw-dropping finale.

In less certain hands, these shifts in tone might seem sudden or jarring, and perhaps shatter the illusion, but somehow Wheatley keeps momentum and maintains a compelling pace.

Kill List won't be to everyone's taste: it is shockingly violent, from early on. One scene in particular still sticks in the mind (pardon the expression) and even if the recipient arguably deserved the treatment being meted out, I still found it tough going. But hey, it's a horror movie, and I was horrified, so I guess it was doing something right!

So, all in all, if you're made of stern stuff, and can handle horror in small doses, then I would recommend Kill List, albeit with the above reservations! It deserves a wider audience, which it probably won't get, sadly, but at least Wheatley should get a crack at a few more movies: should be a name to watch out for in future.

(Recommended viewing in a crowded cinema by the way, if only for the reaction to the final credits!)

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