Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Maybe I'm Jaded...

Checked out a film with the Shite Team last night. We had high hopes for it: a thing called Kill List, which is touted as this amazing British horror flick full of suspense and scary stuff and violence and... stuff. Rotten Tomatoes has it at about 75% as I write this, so you understand when I said we were kind of excited.

We'd considered The Grey, but I couldn't face a movie about Liam Neeson punching wolves, at least not without cheering loudly for the wolves. Bruce popped it onscreen for a brief instant, and we got a lovely temperate pine-forest with snowy mountains as a backdrop... but I felt compelled to shout "Look out, wolves! Liam Neeson is coming to punch you!" and after that, the others decided that maybe we should watch something else.

Hence Kill List. And it's been a long time since I was that disappointed in a movie.

Maybe I'm jaded, okay? But the film starts slowly. Very bloody slowly. We're presented with the rather unlikable Jay, a man in early middle age living somewhat beyond his means in a suburban house in England; a house loaded down with expensive furnishings, exercise gear that Jay clearly doesn't use, jacuzzis, and toys for Jay's beloved son.

The opening scenes drag on through domestic strife between Jay and his wife over money, through a tedious dinner party with Jay's Irish buddy Gal and his deeply strange partner Fiona. Jay throws a tanty and ends the meal on a sour note. More shouting occurs offscreen. Gal attempts to placate Jay's young son. And then gradually the adults get their shit together. But then they get drunk, and stupidity follows.

None too bloody quickly, we discover that Jay and Gal are ex-soldiers, having done time in Iraq. They now work as contract hit-men, and the implication is that they get hired to kill nasty, unpleasant, frequently criminal people. Well, okay. Nothing new in that. Oh - and about a year ago, they had a job in Kiev that went very wrong. But we don't know how or why.

Anyway. Jay accepts Gal's suggestion, and they go off to get a new contract. By now, Weird Fiona has inscribed a stupid little geometric symbol on the back of a mirror in Jay's bathroom, and has apparently gaff-taped a 'dear john' letter to Gal's dick in the night. Eh. You get that on the big jobs, right?

The contract goes askew immediately. The old man doing the hiring says "Necessary", and slashes Jay's hand with a knife, then cuts his own, and splats blood on the contract. Jay doesn't really seem perturbed by this. Okay.

From here on in, things just get uglier. Jay and Gal go out to fulfill the eponymous Kill List, and Jay goes farther and farther off the tracks in the process. Meanwhile, the world in which Jay moves inexplicably gets more and more weird, with victims thanking him profusely as he beats the ever-loving shit out of them with various kitchen and garage impedimenta.

By the final murder, the movie has -- as Robert Downey Jr puts it so aptly in Tropic Thunder -- gone 'the full retard'. Jay and Gal are hanging around the vast estate of the palatial (I'm sure I recognised it from some historical doco or another) house of an MP who's made it onto the shit-list. It's night, and a troop of loonies in mixed garb (some wear calico smocks and straw masks; others are just naked, but not an enjoyable, 'wish that was Scarlett Johansson' sort of naked; they're all too pale, pasty and lumpy for that) parades through the forest, carrying torches. They carry out some sort of generic death ritual in which a random woman gets hanged - though she seems quite happy to participate - and Jay loses it yet again. Blazing away with guns, Jay and Gal retreat from the howling loonies, fleeing (for some inexplicable reason) into a stone-lined tunnel system.


Loonies stab Gal. Gal dies. Jay shoots many loonies. Jay escapes. Loonies follow Jay to his hideaway. Trouble ensues. Jay is captured. Jay is forced into an embarrassing knife-fight with a hunchback wearing a calico smock and a straw mask. Jay wins. The identity of the hunchback is revealed... oh my, how shocking. And then the straw mask loonies unmask, and there's the client who hired Jay among others, and there endeth the film.

It's an effort to do The Wicker Man all over again, with Jay at the centre. Unfortunately, because Jay is an unlikable twat and we're never actually given any reason to be interested in him or his doings, Team Cool Shite and I just flat out didn't give a bubbly brown fart what was happening to him. And as for that "final, shocking revelation" - well, I guessed half of it. But immediately after I voiced my idea, Q-dog spoke up in a very weary voice and predicted the "twist" down to the last, hackneyed, cliche-raddled image.

The film is violent, yes. But then, there's so much violence on screen now. It isn't particularly affecting unless I have something invested in the victims. And Jay's victims are a bunch of lowlives, while Jay himself is completely uninteresting, so it's hard to care. All that's left is the 'ick' factor you always get with excessively violent hammer murders.

The film is not spooky, unless you're susceptible to schoolyard tales of ghosties and serial murderers. I'm not.

 It's not atmospheric: it's slow, frequently boring, and in between times, flat out incomprehensible.

And that "industrial soundtrack" they mention in the reviews? The one that builds atmosphere? I don't know what atmosphere it was building, to tell the truth. Frankly, it reminded me of a flaccid fart.

Essentially, this film tries desperately to be atmospheric, intense, portentous and spooky. Instead it becomes tedious, repugnant, and irritatingly silly. If the film-makers actually wrapped it up, and tried to tell a functional, coherent story that tied up a few of their loose threads, it might have been interesting. I get the impression, however, that they realised they'd written themselves into a corner, and being unable to construct any kind of rationale for what they'd done, they decided simply to say fuck it, and pile on the wannabe-creepy imagery in the hopes that the audience would be overcome by the woooo-spooky! stuff.

Didn't work.

Mr Flinthart gives it: Four G&T - meaning that if you drink four stiff gin and tonics quite quickly, the second half of the movie should at least provoke a few giggles as the looniness sets in.