Two FrightFest hits are released in early September – full FrightFest round-up coming soon!
Ben Wheatley’s second feature was one of the most eagerly awaited offerings at Film4 FrightFest on the August bank holiday weekend. Wheatley’s debut, Down Terrace, was a festival hit two years ago, and deservedly so. Tightly written, finely observed and darkly humorous, it mixed dysfunctional family drama with criminal elements in a refreshing take on the tired British gangster genre.
Kill List similarly combines gritty realism and crime film, but adds a sinister cult to the mix, not entirely wisely. It begins like a kitchen sink drama about the life of a work-shy hitman, Jay, who has blazing rows with his worried wife Shel and a son to provide for. Over a dinner party, his friend and partner Gal manages to convince him to go back to work. But as they go through their client’s kill list, Jay is shaken by what they discover about their targets and becomes increasingly psychotic, his violent behaviour fuelled by self-righteous moral indignation.
As in Down Terrace, the character study, the observation of family dynamics and male friendship, and the excellent dialogue are utterly compelling. But the introduction of the cult element seems unnecessary and unoriginal and does not quite blend with the rest of the story. It is never explained fully, and although mystery and ambiguity are entirely desirable in a film, it is not evocative enough to fire up the imagination. Despite this and an ending that feels tacked on, Kill List is thoroughly engaging for most of its running time and Ben Wheatley is clearly a talent to watch. Virginie Sélavy
A Lonely Place To Die
FrightFest closed with another gripping British thriller, directed by Julian Gilbey. A party of would-be mountaineers on a climbing holiday in the Scottish Highlands make a shocking discovery in the woods, uncovering a Serbian girl buried in a box. They deduce that she is part of a kidnapping plot and resolve to get her back to civilisation. But the kidnappers are out there somewhere, and the girl may be part of something far more dangerous… Gilbey’s film works pretty well as a peril-in-the-wilderness thrill ride, with the small cast members being picked off one by one against spectacular scenery in a variety of unpleasant ways. But it’s more ambitious than it at first seems, throws in a surprise or three, and gets more paranoid and political in the final act. I’m not sure how well this all sits together, though; the dialogue is clunky at times, with characters telling each other things they’d already know. And the kidnappers’ avowed professionalism is undermined by bouts of incompetence and suicidal stupidity. But it rattles along nicely, Sean Harris adds another great turn to his portfolio of horrible bastards, it’s not dull, and the script has its moments – ‘He’s gonna go like Christian fucking Bale in there!’ Mark Stafford