I went into Kill List completely blind, not knowing what to expect. And I was blown away. I mean this in a good way, though I hesitated to use the term “pleasantly surprised” because there is nothing about this film that is pleasant.
What I like most about Kill List is the fact that, though many things are hinted at, the viewer is mostly left in the dark. We see Fiona (Emma Fryer) carving an occult symbol at Jay’s (Neil Maskell) house. While killing the Librarian, we learn that Jay is someone important. We get glimpses of Gal (Michael Smiley) perusing some information about tombs and ancient symbols, but nothing concrete enough to provide complete understanding. Ben Wheatley gives us just enough information to keep us intrigued.
It is interesting that Gal and Jay are tasked with killing a priest, a librarian, and a member of parliament. These three individuals represent the pillars of society: religion, history, and government. This is made even more meaningful when The Client (Struan Rodger) informs the duo that the motive for the assassinations is “reconstruction”.
The atmosphere of this film is incredibly crafted. The tension is immediately established through the interactions between Jay and Shel (MyAnna Buring), and is only increased as the story unfolds. Jay’s unraveling psyche coupled with the strange happenings makes for a very disturbing and uncomfortable film. The soundtrack and cinematography are phenomenal, especially during the final act.
While I found the outcome of Kill List to be somewhat predictable, I also recognize the symbolism at play and respect it on a deeper level. One thing I can say with utmost certainty is that Ari Aster watched this film and took cues from it for Hereditary. The plot in the two movies share a lot of similarities, and the soundtrack of Kill List – again especially during the final act – is very similar to the ambient discord of Hereditary.
Despite a rushed and somewhat predictable finale, Kill List ranks as one of the best films in the horror genre.