Film Review: Kill List
Horror is my favourite genre. And while I tend to skew towards the bigger budget, studio kind of stuff (LOOOOVE Sorority Row), I don’t mind giving a gritty little shit like this a chance. Eden Lake was good.
TL;DR Effects are disgustingly good, acting is believable, tone is menacing. Plot is an absolute piece of fucking shit, and I’ve seen a lot of crappy horror movies. 1 out of 5 stars.
So yeah, let’s start with the plot.
You know, I really wanted to get into this. If Roger Ebert was able to get past its inconsistencies, then I should try it myself. But I just couldn’t.
It doesn’t help that it starts actually well. The first 30 minutes or so are devoted to building the relationships between hitmen Jay and Gal, Jay’s wife Shel and their son. There was a beautiful tension in the dinner party scene, and (refreshing for a horror movie), a realism in these characters’ interactions. Jay actually has a life that I can believe in and care about.
Then the third act just completely loses its shit.
While the second act had some decent hitman stuff going on, Jay and Gal suddenly find themselves all up in a cult ritual thing. I had no fucking idea. I won’t say there’s no foreshadowing, because that wouldn’t be true, but its quite a leap to go from “creepy misunderstandings” straight into “full-blown human sacrifice and naked fat people”. And as soon as the cultists appear, the plot evaporates and the characters plummet into a short series of retarded scenes that have nothing to do with their development up until that point.
I know that a “smart” viewer would, like, totes get it. But I didn’t, and I blame the movie. I’m not the smartest viewer (good god, I’m not), but punting me in the balls with a bullshit plot swerve like this isn’t my fault.
In its favour, though, Kill List is fucking violent as fucking fuck. There aren’t many instances of it, but when it happens, it goddamn happens. That hammer scene was delicious.
And up until the third act shit-fest, I actually gave a damn about these characters, especially Shel and Jay. They’re having problems, but they’re working on their marriage, and she is supportive of Jay when she needs to, and he does what he’s told when he has to. They felt like real human beings, and it was a shame to see them ripped apart by a stupid twist.
Why I hate this movie:
It doesn’t make a lick of sense. Example:
Near the end, Jay, Shel and their son come under siege by the cultists. Jay ventures into the field to attack them, while Shel shoots some that have entered their home. Cut to Jay being forced into a knife fight against “The Hunchback” who turns out to be Shel with their son strapped to her back (Jay totally stabbed the shit out of him, too). Shel smiles like this is exactly what she wanted (why was she defending herself from the cultists, then?), and Jay is crowned, with barely a frown to express his displeasure at just brutally slaying his family. Oh, and it cuts to black as the ending right there. Fuck off.
Jay is also a loose cannon and causes a few of the problems he and Gal run into during their hitman scenes. After watching his character setup, I found myself not caring about him more and more. This was especially disappointing when Gal (who was actually pretty cool) dies. I was like, “I dont care about Jay any more. Oh well, at least Shel is still sweet.” Oh.
Reasons to watch:
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to see someone get their skull hammered in, I reckon this is about as good as it gets. The violence here was so brutal, yet also restrained. The film didn’t revel in gratuitous violence (a la most torture porns). Violence was important, but didn’t overtake the characters or the plot (as nonsensical as it was).
Despite the terrible pay off, I was pretty much glued to my seat. This thing was compelling as fuck. The normalcy of these characters (except, you know, the killing people for money stuff) is what pulled me along. It’s good to have horror movie characters that aren’t ridiculous caricatures or archetypes for once.
I really wanted to like this movie, and be all hipster and clever. But I couldn’t. That last 20 minutes spoiled EVERYTHING. I know I’m pretty ignorant, but I didn’t see even a flicker of meaning delivered by anything tangible. I’m not going to put in the effort to derive meaning from something when it goes out of its way to hinder me. 1 ouf of 5 stars.