Kill List (2011); Sightseers (2012)
I wrote about A Field in England a couple of weeks ago. I discussed the ending. I'm going to do that a little with Kill List, and somewhat less with Sightseers.
Even more than A Field in England, Kill List cannot be written about without its surprises being laid bare. The only thing I can say about it that doesn't ruin it is that it's the single most disturbing of all the films I've looked at.
What's weird is that even though it's a film you absolutely have to see first time cold (if prepared for gore and dread in equal measure) it manages the singular feat of being more disturbing and creepy the second time around. Innocuous moments in the first viewing become the foreshadowings of terrible things on the second.
It starts like it might have been directed by Mike Leigh. Jay (Neil Maskell, one of my favourite currently working actors) is married to Shel (MyAnna Buring) and has a young son, who he clearly dotes on. Jay's marriage is under stress because he's been out of work for eight months, ostensibly for health reasons, although there's some indication that these health reasons are due to some emotional trauma that neither Jay nor Shel will admit to.
|It's time to get back on the horse.|
Jay shows him his new sniper rifle. They're hit men, business partners (Shel, herself formerly a soldier, handles the finances). Gal and Shel have got a client, a short kill list of three targets. How hard can it be?
|After the sigil.|
Someone kills rabbits and leaves parts of them on the lawn. And then the cat, leaving it trussed up in wire and hanging outside the door.
Their victims say "thank you." More and more, something pagan, something evil overshadows the two men. The librarian's porn collection contains things so awful that Jay loses his cool in a big way.
Gal: You're covered in blood.The last hit doesn't go to plan. They witness a human sacrifice. And then... There's that ending.
Jay: I'll burn 'em.
Gal: The sign of a good painter and decorator?
Gal: Clean overalls. No bodging.
Jay: Point taken.
The English countryside is contemporary, all travelodges and declined credit cards, and a Pyrex jug is a very modern dinner party faux pas, but pagan black magic waits in the corner of your eye, blacker than ever. Cultists wear masks that look like corn dollies. They accept death. They create chaos. They believe only in the present. Everything leads to this one moment, where This Season's King of Chaos and Death is crowned. Only corruption rules, and it waits patiently behind the curtains of normality.
Tina killed the dog a year ago, in a freak knitting accident, and hasn't been forgiven.
|This needs no words.|
[Carol comes out of the house. Tina rolls down the window.]
Tina: Bye, Mum!
Carol: You'll be back.
Tina: I will, Mum. In a week.
Chris: OK, well, we'll see you then, Carol. I'll bring her back safe, don't you worry. Ey, I understand you collect snow globes?
Carol: I don't like you.
Chris: OK. Well. See you, then.
[Chris starts the car.]
Tina: Show me the world, Chris!
Chris: I thought we'd start with Crich Tram Museum.
|In the Pencil Museum.|
|Season of the witch.|
Chris is frustrated, desperately, his anger at a world that won't go his way expressing itself in murderous rage. He seems to think the English countryside will be more civil to him.
Chris: Take the noble English Oak. Old Nobbly. That won't stab you in the back or belittle your five year plan. That tree won't steal things that belong to you and put them in another place, just to piss you off. That tree won't involve itself in low-level bullying... that means you have to leave work.But the problem is, the countryside won't show him respect. A middle class man who's writing a book about walks who doesn't want to talk to him. A man who insists they pick up the leavings of their dog (itself stolen from one of their previous victims).
But it's not the same. She doesn't understand him. In the end, death from an urge to chaos and death from a desire for order will conflict, and one will prove far more proficient. Either way, death wins.
Neither of these films is straightforwardly one thing (I think I like Sightseers better, but that's partly because Kill List is so very disturbing that I had to psych myself up to watching it a second time to write this). But they still work together. Both show a bland, banal countryside that inspires murderous thoughts. Theirs is a dark espousal of the business of death as the chaotic, inescapable sacrament of a bleak paganism.