The less you know about Ben Wheatley’s (Down terrace) second feature the better. Opening events give no indication as to how bruised and battered you’ll feel by the time the final credits roll some 85 agonising minutes later. We’re talking about family disputes, irresponsible parents and cringe worthy dinner parties here. A set of circumstances so familiar, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that Wheatley has set up shop in your own living room.
Jay (Neil Maskell) and his wife Shel (Myanna Buring) are hosting a dinner party for old friend Gal (Michael Smiley) and his new girlfriend. Tensions are already high, even before they introduce the red stuff. Jay hasn’t worked in months, the bills are piling up, and there’s precious little hope of him convincing Shel that the new Jacuzzi fitting will aid his bad back. To make matters worse, Gal is positively coining it in with his latest venture and it’s only a matter of time before Jay gets back on the horse with him.
He said: Wheatley dresses his gut-punching thriller in melodrama and side-splitting realism; his protagonists largely unsympathetic (with the exception of Michael Smiley’s Gal). You won’t find many heroes in this neighbourhood, but we all know a family like theirs, and that’s what makes the opening act so uncomfortably engaging.
She said: Masquerading as a gangster flick, Wheatley takes a different route to most in the genre and doesn’t glamorise his protagonists, instead showing us how miserable they all are. It works well, and with some well placed humour we can emphasise with all and sundry as they struggle through their pitiable lives.
He said: That’s all you need to know for now. Rest assured though, Jay and Gal do descend into a disturbing world, lives do unravel at an alarming pace, and fear and paranoia are sure to find them both in the heart of darkness.
She said: It’s a marmite moment – the final act – and one I just can’t seem to swallow.
He said: It’s an astonishing movie that shocks and surprises at every turn.
She said: It’s astonishing how the ending sucks so much.
He said: Maskell and Smiley might not look like your stereotypical leading men but they’re on top form here, with Smiley the film’s most rounded character. Buring puts in a strong performance too, but it’s Smiley’s quirky Irish charm that’ll keep you from throwing in the towel when the shit hits the fan.
She said: And boy is there a lot of shit in that final act.
He said: Wheatley teases the audience throughout, raising questions and encouraging constant scrutiny. Why do the supporting players act the way they do? Are these events really taking place or could they be the work of Jay’s fragile mind? And why are the dinner guests drawing symbols on the back of the bathroom mirror? The answers do come, but you’ll have to join some of the dots yourself.
She said: There is much to admire about Kill List – up until the final act you’ll be gripped, I promise. But the ending is unlikely to capture the imagination and hearts of most viewers, whether you love your gangster flicks or your horror movies. Despite the teasing foreplay it’s all been done better before, and you’ll be left gutted at such a ridiculous twist. This is coming from a huge horror fan.
He said: It defies convention.
She said: It defies belief.
He said: Believable characters, excellent performances and occasional graphic violence combine to exhilarating effect in one of the most memorable movies of the year. Films like this remind me why I love cinema; films that have the power to stay with you long after the lights go out.
She said: Seriously, just watch it, there’s much to enjoy. Just prepare yourself for one of the worst endings in cinematic history.
He said: Kill List could be the best British thriller you see all year, and I’m writing this in February. Outstanding.
She said: A stunning piece of work ruined by a lazy finale that’s both heart-breaking and stomach churning. For all the wrong reasons.