Those who attended the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival may watched the screening of Kill List, which just began a Video-On-Demand release stateside (Stream Kill List here), and will get a limited theatrical run starting February 3rd, 2012. Ben Wheatley directed and co-wrote Kill List, which begins eight months after a botched job in Kiev, and Jay (Neil Maskell) is an out-of-work hitman with no job, money, or health insurance – and a wife that’s constantly on his case. But when his business partner Gal (Michael Smiley) comes over for dinner and pressures Jay into taking a new assignment, Jay quickly finds himself back in the game with the promise of a big payoff after three assassinations. Although the hits start off without incident, soon things begin to unravel and Jay’s paranoia reveals itself as he’s plunged into the heart of darkness.
The second feature from British director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) Kill List, which premiered at SXSW 2011, features jet black humor and what’s described as nail-biting suspense that works to keep the audience always off-guard. Moving from kitchen-sink drama to character study to crime thriller, Kill List ends up at something more fundamentally profound and wonderfully disturbing.
Check out the trailer, poster and images for Kill List, below. I’ve also included an interview that was conducted with filmmaker Ben Wheatley, where he describes the process of getting a film like Kill List made, along with how the concept came about.
How did you get started making films?
DOWN TERRACE was my first film, though I had directed a lot of television and adverts before that. DOWN TERRACE was self funded and very low budget. Making a feature film was something I’d wanted to do from a young age and I realized that if I didn’t go for it then, it would never happen.
How did KILL LIST come about?
Kill List came about through conversations with Warp Films. We showed them a slate of projects that we were developing (some already scripted; some just treatments) and they really liked Kill List. Kill List was a full script at that point. It went through a few more drafts but didn’t change majorly. Warp were very supportive during the making of the film as were Film Four and the UKFC.
I wanted to continue on with the techniques I’d used in DOWN TERRACE. Using improvisation alongside a tight script; showing raw emotion mixed with moments of violence and comedy. The script was written for specific actors with casting only for the smaller roles.
Why a horror film?
I’ve always loved horror films, but there seem to be so few that are actually scary. I wanted to make something that would make the audience afraid and unnerved. I sat down with Amy Jump (co – writer) and we thought about the things that scared us the most and then built the script around that. A lot of the sequences are built around re-occurring nightmares I’ve had since childhood. I thought that if these things scared me then – they would scare a larger audience.
Tell us about the cast and the casting process.
I’ve worked with all the principle cast of KILL LIST before. Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley and Myanna Buring all appeared in a TV sketch show I directed called The Wrong Door. I’d made a mental note that I wanted to work with them again. I got the chance with Michael on DOWN TERRACE, and with Neil on an advert. Once I got to know the two of them a bit better the thought of pairing them up started forming. When we were writing the script we always had their voices in mind.
Emma Fryer and Ben Crompton were both in Ideal, another TV show I had directed and I was really keen to work with them again. There are also returning faces from DOWN TERRACE (Rob and Bob Hill, Mark Kempner and Gareth Tunley). The main bit of casting was Struan Rodger, who brought great weight and subtly to his role as the client.
What does KILL LIST mean?
I am a big fan of working hard in movies. I don’t like to be able to understand and double guess a film as I watch it. I want it to surprise me and confound me. There are many strands running through KILL LIST; some easy to grasp (the hit men doing a job) some harder (who is the client? why do they target Jay) the information is there in the film, it’s lurking in the corners of frames. I think it’s far more scary to be half told, than definitively told.