One of the most singular and unusual genre pictures to come out of England - or, for that matter, from most everywhere - in recent years, Kill List starts off as a regular slice of British realist drama about a family torn apart by financial and professional issues, before taking a genuinely disquieting turn into a rabbit hole from which it most steadfastly refuses to come back out.

     Director, co-writer and co-editor Ben Wheatley's sophomore effort not only offers a fresh take on genre conventions, it manages to seamlessly transition from a Ken Loach or Mike Leigh-style drama to all-out surrealism, in a stubbornly outlandish third act that brings to mind David Lynch's opaque narrative choices. And, in Mr. Wheatley's quietly unnerving tale of two contract hitmen whose latest job puts them face to face with disturbing signs of a wider conspiracy at work, a surprisingly open-ended narrative approach underlines just how much the true mastery of genre lies in mood, atmosphere and handling rather than in narrative. As former Army buddies and now contract killers Jay (an outstanding Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) follow their latest "kill list" and find mystifying clues popping up in unexpected locations, and Jay becomes increasingly unhinged, Mr. Wheatley delivers an unnervingly blank slate where the viewer can project anything he really wants to see, and in doing so magnifies immensely the claustrophobic mystery at its heart.

     While certainly not a masterpiece - its obliqueness may grate and occasionally plays against it, and the suggestions of paganism that hark back to that staple of British horror that is The Wicker Man can seem more calculated than sincere - Kill List is a genuine original, one that cleverly straddles the worlds of genre film and arthouse meditation with the utmost confidence of someone who doesn't think they're mutually exclusive.

Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, Myanna Buring, Emma Fryer.
     Director, Ben Wheatley; screenplay, Mr. Wheatley, Amy Jump, with additional improvised material by the cast; cinematography, Laurie Rose (colour, widescreen); music, Jim Williams; production designer, David Butterworth; costume designer, Lance Milligan; editors, Robin Hill, Mr. Wheatley, Ms. Jump; producers, Claire Jones, Andy Starke (Warp X and Rook Films for The UK Film Council and Filmfour in association with Screen Yorkshire, in association with Nonstop Entertainment and Madman Entertainment), UK/Australia/Sweden, 2011, 95 minutes.
     Screened: DVD, Lisbon, March 1st 2012. 


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