Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Kill List

Ben Wheatley, 2011
BBFC rating: 18

What makes the difference between a horror movie and a thriller? I think in many cases it's all in the ending. Films about the main players being trapped - like Buried and Frozen - would be thrillers if they culminated in escape and horror films if they didn't. This could depend on as little screen time as the final 15 or so seconds. Thrillers and horror movies often rely largely on tension ratcheted up over the course of the film, giving the audience time to acclimatise to the baseline and get to know and invest in the characters - to magnify either the horror when it arrives, or the sense of vicarious relief when it doesn't. Kill List straddles the thriller/horror boundary, moving across toward the latter as the film progresses. I can understand why it has been described variously as one or the other (and as the ambiguous 'chiller' in the quote on the promo poster above).

Much like Skeletons and The Disappearance of Alice Creed (a similarly brutal and enthralling movie), Kill List centres around the relationship between two male characters. The three also have in common low budgets, stark British landscapes and a melancholic tone as well as convincing acting, intriguing plots and fairly limited cinematic releases. My guess is if you like them, you'll like this too - as long as you don't mind a splash of horror with your thrills and drama.When the horror finally arrives, it's nicely done: jeopardy, chases, and blood and guts are all present, correct and stylish and the horror has overtones of A Serbian Film, The Wicker Man and The Last Exorcism. It's not quite got the conceptual strength to linger for ages in my mind like Martyrs did, for example, but it certainly has the balls and the guts to induce the queasiness and dread the poster promises.