“Wait, so it’s a horror movie about hitmen? How does that work?” That’s how I reacted the first time I heard about the premise of Kill List. What possibly can be scary about hit men?
The set-up? A British soldier Jay (played by Neil Maskell) returns home from Kiev. He is suffering from his disturbed past from a non-specific failed mission in Kiev. He’s strapped for cash and his wife Shel (played by MyAnna Buring) urges him to take a job with his old friend Gal (played by Michael Smiley) as contract killers. His disturbed past surfaces as he spins out of control during jobs and ominous employers raise the stakes.
You may be thinking: what the heck is scary about that?
The way we take information has progressed and audiences have evolved. Subtext has now become supertext. Kill List is a film that understands this and chooses to plays all it’s beats beneath it’s surface. It is not about what is being shown to the audience. It is everything that is not being shown: an off-kilter look, an obscure comment and a random action. There is something happening behind the curtains and all these random little things engage you to ask questions. “What the hell is going on?” “Why did she do that?” Kill List engages through creating distance with its audience.
One must remember the first rule of horror: it is never being literal. Horror stories are about ideas. Anything physical (i.e. a monster) is a mere physicalization of an idea.
The film ended and I was unnerved. I did not know what idea it was that I was rattled by. It’s a looming feeling that sits there in front of you. I felt like rewatching the film again to check if I missed anything. But I did not miss anything. I had no grasp on what it was and that’s quite unsettling.