Susan Granger’s review of “Kill List” (IFC Midnight)
During this current worldwide recession, there are many out-of-work stories but few as repellent as what’s depicted in this British horror film which begins as a benign melodrama.
Middle-class suburbanites Jay (Neil Maskell) and his stay-at-home Swedish wife, Shel (MyAnna Buring), are hosting a small dinner party. Their guests are jocular Irishman Gal (Michael Smiley) and his furtive new girlfriend, Fiona (Emma Fryer), who surreptitiously scratches a mysterious symbol into the back of the bathroom mirror. But tensions are running high, especially when Shel serves gravy in a Pyrex measuring cup. After all, it’s been eight months since confrontational Jay worked and their current lack of money is causing enough family discord to affect their seven year-old son Sam (Harry Simpson). So when his buddy Gal makes a job proposal, Jay can’t refuse.
It seems that what Jay does for a living is murder people. He’s a psychopathic assassin-for-hire, a mercenary. But his last job with Gal in Kiev went sour and shattered Jay’s nerves. That situation is not helped when they meet with their elderly employer (Struan Rodger) who hands them an unlikely three-man “kill list” and insists that their contract be signed in blood. Their first victim is a priest whose last words are “Thank you,” as each hit becomes more violently unnerving and depraved than the last.
Director Ben Wheatley (“Down Terrace”), who co-wrote the cryptic script with his wife Amy Jump, says, “It’s based around my dreams and nightmares, which includes being chased, being trapped in small places and, indeed, long and difficult dinner parties – all types of horror.”
Wheatley has also been greatly influenced by Robin Hardy’s 1973 cult classic “The Wicker Man” and its recent sequel, “The Wicker Tree,” involving paganism and chanting, along with nightmarish, quasi-religious rituals evoking twisted memories of William Friedkin’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and “Eyes Wide Shut.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kill List” is an eerie, sinister, floundering 4, careening to a brutally bizarre, preposterous conclusion that’s definitely not for the squeamish.