27 January 2012

Kill List review

Kill List is a weird movie with a solid fanbase from what I have gathered, joined recently by Brad Jones of the "thecinemasnob.com",(a really fun site where bad, crazy and weird movies are reviewed). This movie also has a lot of fans on various movie review sites, and has almost 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. I was made aware of this movie by a reader of this blog who said I should watch it as it could be a movie I might enjoy. All I knew before watching it was that it was about contract killers and had a weird atmosphere. So I was refreshingly open minded and rather unspoiled by trailers and the like before I watched the movie.

Spoilers ahead!

Well what can be is that I agree with almost everyone about this movie certainly being different. It begins as a very slow ride with lots of character building for almost 30 minutes. The main character is in economical trouble, his wife is bitching about it, they invite some friends over for dinner which spirals out of control due to an argument about money yet again and pushes the main character to join his buddy for another hitman job to make some cash.

They meet this creepy guy who gives them their contract and seals the deal in blood by slashing his own hand and the hand of the main character - after which the both hitmen travel to the location of their first target which happens to be a priest. Upon  whacking him, the priest thanks the main character for some reason - which is something of a start of the weird track of the movie. The following hits they perform all get more vicious and brutal, their targets more and more depraved, and the main character becoming increasingly violent.

Towards the end the two hitmen track down the last target and end up in the woods outside of a mansion where they watch some freaky hedonistic cult performing human sacrifice, maddened by what they see the hitmen go out guns blazing and start mowing down the cultists. This part of the movie was probably the highlight for me, since there is a very tense sequence where the two hitmen flee through the forest and through a sewer system chased by these crazed naked cultists who are wearing straw masks and making messed up noises.

The main character loses his friend to the cultists down in the sewers and is himself captured shortly after. In the final moments of the movie the main character is dressed up like one of the cultists and encouraged to fight someone hiding under blanket - the shape of a hunchback. After a rather halfhearted knife fight the main character stabs the hunchback, which falls over and turns out to be his wife who has his son tied to her back - so he killed his own kid. And the movie ends.

This left me with a tingling "WTF?" sensation. You see the entire movie is filled with clues, and details, symbols, characters and notions but very little is resolved, described or explained. Usually I like to piece together stuff in my own head - but I think this movie went too far and left so much for the viewer to fill in on his own that it comes off as rather lazy imo. To me a good example of an open ending is something like the ending in "The Guard", which I recently watched as well. A movie where you can make up your own mind whether the main character lived or died at the end and the movie included tiny moments which could leave you thinking one way or the other without being wrong and still being satisfied.

The directing, acting and the atmosphere is great. The violence that is shown and the effects are also great. The shortcoming of this movie is that it builds up slowly towards something that never comes. It goes from being a weird hitman movie with eerie atmosphere and mystery thickening mystery plot - to a "crazy cultists in the woods action movie" during the last 15 minutes - to an unresolved "wtf" ending during the last 3 minutes.

I ended up checking the internet on what other people thought about the plot and the ending to see if their thoughts matched mine. Some of those people who watched the movie somehow made up this elaborate detailed story which I could not really identify myself. Maybe this movie needs repeated viewings - but I can't say I thought it was so enthralling during my first watch that I would look forward to watching it again.

Basically the hitmen were hired by a cult who specializes in killing people, who I think may not dare commit suicide and need outside help - which is why they thank the one who kills them. It might also be that the targets were so disgusted with themselves that they wanted to suffer and die for what they had done - what speaks against it is that don't themselves say anything to trigger the increasing violence. The increasing brutality from the main character is fueled by evidence of depravity found  in the houses of the targets. Anyone would have reacted with hate and disgust  to what he found.

Then there is the cult symbol, which appears on a dossier later in the movie and I also think that the woman who was "sacrificed" by the cult was hung in a way so that it looked like the cult symbol. But early on in the movie, a character etches the cult symbol behind a mirror in the house of the main character. And that does not really lead anywhere and is never mentioned again.

The final showdown is also an enigma for me. There are very few alternatives. Either his wife was in on the cult and wanted the kid to be killed. However she was seen shooting cultists with a pistol just two minutes ago. And if she was in on it how could she be sure she would not be killed by accident instead of the kid? If she was not in on it, why did she laugh? Perhaps she was drugged but I don't know, that would not make any sense. If she wasn't drugged and not in on it , would she still not recognize her husband despite the mask? I mean she probably knew how his body looked after a couple of years of marriage.

And why did the main character, who did not seem to be forced or threatened in any way by the cult towards the end just kill the main "villain" - the employer and what looked to be the leader of the cult as he was standing just yards away?

There are also other things that are hard to explain, stuff that can be written off as hallucinations or very effective medication.

While I did not outright hate this movie, it did annoy me slightly towards the end because I think they lost themselves is this ambiguous notion towards the end, it could have been a much better movie with just a few elements of linearity and half an explanation instead of none. At least have the movie make a statement instead of just feeling as if you were riding along on a aimless journey.

Though I would be interested in watching more from this director in the future as he clearly has talent. Just give him a bit more structured screenplay to work with. I also think it was wrongly marketed as a "horror" movie. Even though it falls close to what "I saw the devil" was , a horror-thriller, it still comes off as a straight hitman movie with a twist ending because the horror elements just make up such a tiny part of the very end.


  1. [spoilers derp] You didn't get the impression that the main character was somehow regarded as a "Messiah" for the cultists? That the symbol in his house, the weird slash on his hand (which is shown infected in one scene but fine in the scene after) and his increasingly violent nature were all the result of some "becoming"-ritual? Small details pointing towards something like that would be that the cultists had a lot of information about the hitmen and seemed surprisingly unwilling to kill him.

    But yes it's an annoying and sort of pretentious movie, it's not worth a re-watch unless the director/writer some day reveals what it was all about.

  2. Not really, but I did read about that theory on the internet afterwards that he was being groomed into this "anti Christ" figure. Granted that they "crown" him at the end but I don't think enough information is given to make it clear that they were in fact thinking of him as a messiah. He could as well just have been taking part in a initiation ritual to join the cult, been part of a chain linked human sacrifice and a lot of other things.

  3. here is my reaction to KILL LIST :) (first post in the thread) http://www.rockshockpop.com/forums/showthread.php?2690-Kill-List-%282011%29

  4. LOL, I waited for a few days before writing this review for pretty much the same reason, needed time to collect my thoughts to say the least. I am very confused to the overly positive Rotten Tomatoes rating. I thought it would be 50-60% at most.


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