M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Last month, counted down my favorite horror films from my first year of reviewing. Now it’s on to Year Two which began officially on October 1, 2011 and went through September 30, 2012. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2011 and September 30, 2012 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on January 4, 2012 and available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!

KILL LIST (2011)

Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump
Starring Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson, Michael Smiley, Emma Fryer
Find out more about this film here!

I’ve heard many folks say that in order to go into KILL LIST, it’s most effective to know nothing of the film before hand. I have to agree, since I avoided reading plot synopses and reviews, wanting to be surprised the first time I went in and when I recently revisited the film for the countdown. I’m going to try to go spoiler free, but for the sake of this review, I have to talk about some details here.

I love the way KILL LIST plays out. I could easily see some folks lured into this movie thinking it’s one thing, then being totally shocked and appalled finding out that by the end of the movie it is an entirely different film. It’s not as harsh a twist from one genre into the next as, say, FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, but there is definitely a tonal shift about ¾’s in. Throughout, though, the tone is dark, be it set in a quaint homestead where a couple fight and make up in a tumultuous relationship or in a dark cave system with two men running for their lives. There’s rarely a moment of levity and even when it does occur, as with a scene in a diner when two hitmen’s dinner is interrupted by religious singers, it plays out with a wicked black sense of humor and a foreboding sense of dread.

KILL LIST unravels meticulously, centering on one man, Jay (played stone cold by Neil Maskell), who seems to be having a banal argument with his beautiful wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) about bills and debt. When another couple comes over for dinner, the normalcy continues as both couples laugh over food and wine, get tipsy, argue, then make up. Again, nothing really out of the ordinary. Soon, though, it’s revealed that Jay and his partner Sam (Harry Simpson) are former military and have an opportunity to use their particular set of skills again carrying out hits on a list given to them by an exclusive client. As the curtains are pulled back on their shady life of taking pay for blasting skulls, we are witness to a whole new level of normal for Jay, who continues to walk around like a ticking time bomb and enacts his jobs with brutal force. When Jay and Sam take a job from a mysterious grey-haired gentleman with a list of kills for the two, things start getting…dire.

That’s all I’m saying. Though moving from relationship drama to hitman angst is enough of a shift, the shift into the realm of an even darker horror makes this film a must see for fans of all cinema, not just horrorphiles. KILL LIST is downright terrifying in parts and ends with an impactful blow to the stomach that leaves you reeling and reeling. It’s a film that curbstomps expectations, delving into dark, scary, and taboo territories.

SPOILER WARNING: KILL LIST is not wholly original in terms of where it ends up as it is going to be very familiar to fans of THE WICKER MAN and of Ari Aster’s double barrel blast of cinema with HEREDITARY and MIDSOMMAR. The folk horror in this film really is the least interesting aspect of the film as it’s been done before. It’s the way director Ben Wheatley tells his tale before the occult aspects of the film are introduced that sets it apart. I also find it interesting to note that while it is a shade less taboo, KILL LIST is lauded for its twists, but another film, A SERBIAN FILM, is panned, though the end scene reveals are relatively the same and offer a similar shock and rock you impact that you won’t get over. END SPOILER!

Director Ben Wheatley takes his sweet old time getting to the horror, but those patient enough to sit through some commanding performances from Maskell, Buring, and Simpson will definitely find the horrific payoff at the end shocking and satisfying. Though on a second watch shades of the horrors to come are scattered throughout the story, Wheatley makes the actors’ lives on screen so fascinating that you are bound to miss something on first showing.

If there is a complaint I have about the film and this is very minor, it’s that the accents are as thick as snail snot in KILL LIST. It helped me a lot putting on the subtitles as the characters often mumble, and speak rapidly throughout. Hopefully, those not used to accents will take heed and appreciate my heads-up and use the subtitles option if available.

I’ve already said too much, I’m sure. KILL LIST is a harrowing film that is bores deep into your heart and leaves painful scars.

THE 2011-2012 COUNTDOWN!

#16 – THE PACT
#17 – V/H/S
#24 – [REC]3 GENESIS
#28 – INBRED

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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