Kill List (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus returns to the criminal underworld with an occult twist...
Ex-soldier turned hitman Jay (Neil Maskell) hasn't been on a job for eight months and with money drying up and the strain weighing on his wife (MyAnna Buring) he has to take up close friend Gal's (Michael Smiley) offer to work through a new kill list.
Kill List begins as a pretty typical British drama. A husband and wife swearing at each other over money and a sense that Jay may very well be a bit of a hardman when he's not playing with his son. There are the usual family tensions between him and his wife taking fairly obvious pops at each other in front of friends but underpinning all that is a score that makes everything feel much more ominous and horror-like.
Without going into specifics too much (but be wary because the following paragraph will skim along spoiler territory) Kill List starts dropping oddities on us as the slow burning plot begins to unfold. From the moment a house guest etches some sort of occult symbol on the back of the family bathroom mirror Kill List steps out of the typical British gangland drama. It's a genuine WTF moment that isn't really acknowledged again for a good half an hour but somehow this odd little occurrence makes everything that follows feel stranger than it should.
I can see why a lot of critics have got behind this one. The mish mash of the hitman genre with the occult (think Wicker Man as opposed to CGI demons running around) certainly generates a bit of a mood. Its all very effective and sometimes quite overbearing but the loose almost improvised style dialogue meanders us through scenes and despite the tension building in the score the story isn't always that engaging and relies on the input of Jay's victims saying odd things like "Thank you. I'm glad to have met you" mid beating to elevate the simple structure into something more interesting and aloof.
Kill List is one of those movies that by the time you reach the closing credits you're not 100% sure how the hell we got there. This is a good thing in terms of making Kill List stick out in the crowd and makes it a film that's hard to forget but a bit of me wishes the climax of the story wasn't quite so abrupt and didn't leave quite so much to interpretation. I'm not complaining as I like a movie that puts the outcome in the audience's hands but something about Kill List feels more like someone somewhere in the process of making this said "Wouldn't it be cool if..." to create a shocking ending but never really intended on giving us much more than that.
The entire film has a clean and crisp appearance with a fairly drab colour palette. Visuals look realistic with skin textures showing every blemish and freckle and even though the odd colour pops off of the beige or overcast backgrounds there's nothing out of the ordinary to get all that excited about.
Depending on lighting, skin tones can seem warmer than expected from time to time but generally keep to the natural approach and the story sticks to daytime settings for the most part. When the darker scenes creep in, black levels are good and deep but the image tends to get noticeably softer and the detail the day-lit scenes thrive on also takes a bit of back seat.
Other than the realistic yelling between the married couple echoing around the family home, the early highlight in the DTS-HD Master Audio track is the ominous score that creeps around the corners of the perfectly normal visuals and give everything an uncomfortable underpinning. It grows to overpowering levels in the tenser moments and in all honestly the entire mood of this movie is because of this unexpected horror score in for what is essentially a simple hitman movie for the most part.
The dialogue is crisp throughout and sound effects play a large part in the track to sell the realism of everyday life. Steps on wood flooring and the scraping of knives and forks on plates are all very noticable in the track and keeps all of this grounded in the real world somehow. There one use of a song in the early half of the film that feels full and strong and as the story gets nastier the screeching screams of cult members become more reminiscent of an Alien movie than a bunch of half naked dudes with wicker masks - adding lots of intensity, especially when its mixed with the overture of horror movie feeling strings.
The disc opens with trailers for Animal Kingdom, Our Day Will Come and Brighton Rock. Then its on to the first commentary with director Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump. The married writers of the film provide a detailed account of the production and their ideas for the story in a fairly laid back track. The second commentary with actors Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring and Michael Smiley is more fun with lots of funny stories and more lively banter.
The 'Making of Kill List' (7:37 HD) is short and is presented abstractly with the score hovering over the visuals. It shows tests, filming and set ups and not much else.
The interviews on the disc include Ben Wheatley (06:27 HD), Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring (10:23 HD) and Claire Jones and Andrew Starke - the film's producers (07:41 HD) all of which expand our knowledge of the making of the project and how it came to be and last up we have the trailer (01:47 HD).
Kill List is a hard one to call. It's not a bad little film and it's got some genuinely interesting hints at a very dark turn that always seem to be on the horizon but for me when the darker elements rolled around they fell a bit flat. Sure the scares were intense for a while there but in this one's case the intrigue was better than the pay off for me. The disc however has a nice batch of extras, has a crisp clean video presentation and a nice foreboding audio track that makes up at least 80% of the unease here.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 26th December 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English, Audio Description English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Commentaries, Making of, Interviews, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley
Genre: Crime, Drama and Horror
Length: 96 minutes
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