Ben Wheatley has been a problematic director for me. An indie darling, whom my friends are fond of, has produced a couple of movies (A Field in England and High Rise) that didn't really click for me. I have never seen Sightseers, which seems to be a fan favorite but I decided to go back to his breakout movie, Kill List, and see what was up.
To say this is a dark movie is understating it. An out-of-work soldier becomes a hitman with his best friend and the two of them have to work their way down the titular kill list. So far, so Pulp Fiction. However, there are things happening almost subliminally that turn this into a horror movie. The best friend (Gal) brings his girlfriend (Fiona) around to meet Jay (our main character) and his wife, Shel. Fiona leaves a strange mark hidden in Jay's bathroom and dumps Gal the next day. However, she keeps turning up in odd places for Jay to encounter. Then, there is the matter of sealing the deal with a blood oath that turns into too deep a cut on Jay's palm. And then there is the creepy way everyone they kill says "Thank You" right before they do it.
The violence in this is pretty extreme with hammers, knives, guns and walls being used to batter and demolish people. This isn't the shockingly funny way John Travolta blows Phil LaMar's head off in Pulp Fiction, this is the brutalizing violence that comes from a disturbed place inside Jay. As they get deeper into the Kill List, Gal starts getting suspicious that the victims seem to know more about their killers than the other way around. Everywhere Jay turns, it seems like someone is gently pushing him to lose more and more control.
Although I saw the ending coming from miles away, it doesn't make it less effective. Once the horror kicks in, Wheatley abandons a classic narrative for more and more jarring jump cuts, disorienting the audience in regards to time and space.
If you can handle brutal violence and you like occult movies, check this out.