Kill List (UK 2011)

I just didn’t see it

I commented that Dead Man’s Shoes (UK 2004) unsuccessfully tried to meld realism and genre; Kill List tries to do the same and similarly comes unstuck. Writer-director Ben Wheatley’s film was critically praised so maybe I don’t get it  but I was desperate for it to end. Maybe – see Avengers postennui has got a grip and I need to start doing something other than watching movies.

What I did like was the sound design that used bridges quite daringly, so the sound from the next scene started well before the cut. Performances were good and the low budget was spread very well in its use of Sheffield-area locations. The first 30 minutes, the domestic strife of the protagonist, is well set  up but when the film enters genre territory – he’s a hitman – it loses the plot (or me at least). We enter Saw territory with the extreme violence and I’m too old (bored) for that but, worse, when we reach the full-blown horror of . . . (spoiler alert!)

. . . Wicker Man territory I really could have cared less. Recent Hollywood horror has made the mistake of having unattractive teens as the protagonists so rather than worrying if they’re going to be ‘bumped off’ we’re actually cheering it (come to think of it, is that a subversion of the genre . . ?). And I really didn’t care what happened to this lot; even the cute kid.

What’s more, if you start in a realist vein then the horror elements should be rooted in reality. At least in Wicker Man the setting of an isolated Scottish island was sufficient to convince that the locals were doo-lally. But, in Sheffield? The Sight & Sound reviewer suggests that this might be a manifestation of post-traumatic stress syndrome, as the protagonist is a vet. It might have been but I didn’t see any clues.

Maybe genre shouldn’t be mixed with realism. Maybe we are at the end of genre; all the variants have been done and there’s nothing else to say… Maybe it’s the end of cinema!!! No, that’s definitely ennui.

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