Checks Off All Boxes

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Low budget British horror movies of a recent vintage and high quality aren’t exactly thick on the ground. One exception is Resurrecting the Street Walker, which I was pleased to discover whilst trawling Amazon Prime’s streaming service; another one is Kill List.

Our main character is Jay (Neil Maskell), half of a successful murder-for-hire duo with his buddy Gal (Michael Smiley). The pair took to contract killing after serving in the military in Iraq, finding both the pay and the flexible working hours to their liking – but Jay hasn’t felt like taking any contracts lately, after a job in Kiev a few months back took a nasty turn. Of course, no killing means no money’s coming in, and with the family savings all dried up thanks to their expensive lifestyle Jay’s marriage to Shel (MyAnna Buring) is on the rocks. Both Shel and Gal would dearly like Jay to agree to taking on a new job, and when Gal brings his new squeeze Fiona (Emma Fryer) – supposedly an ordinary human resources manager – for a dinner party Jay feels pressed from both ends, but ultimately agrees to meet the client (Struan Rodger).

On the surface, it seems like a simple enough job suitable to build a simple enough British crime thriller around – there’s a list of targeted individuals they have to kill, they will get rewarded handsomely when the job’s done. Of course, it isn’t going to be that simple; for instance, when the second target (Mark Kempner) turns out to be the custodian of a vast archive of snuff porn (which is never directly shown) it’s vile enough that Jay off his own bat decides to widen their remit to taking down the pornographer’s associates as well. In the process Gal comes across troubling evidence that their targets know a little too much about their past in general and the Kiev mission in particular. Smelling a big fat rat, they try to back out of the job, even recommending alternates – but the client is insistent that they must be the ones who do the job.

However, scattered here and there over the course of the movie are signs that there’s something more going on – little clues that seem stark and startling when they happen, but which are easily forgotten in the mass of the rest of the film until a later reference refreshes the viewer’s memory. Fiona disappearing from Gal’s life the day after the dinner party is suspicious enough; Fiona taking time to draw a strange symbol on the back of Jay and Shel’s bathroom mirror is downright bizarre. Why are some of these victims so appallingly accepting of their fates? And why, exactly, did the client insist on marking the contract with blood?

Any reasonable discussion of the film requires spoilering the hell out of it, so if you want to come to it fresh – and this is one of those rare cases where I recommend that. (For those with access to it, it’s available to stream on Amazon Prime, AKA The Service Formerly Known As Lovefilm.) See you after the spoiler break.

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