Please note this post discussion is a post discussion, therefore it’s full of spoilers it discloses information about the ENTIRE film (yes including the ending) and these following movies, the Mist (2007) and a Serbian Film (2010), ABC’s of Death (2012), A Field in England (2013), Dragon (2011), History of Violence (2005), Angel Heart (1987),Skeleton Key (2005) and Devil Rides Out (1968),Borderlands (2013),Dead Man’s Shoes (2004), Oldboy (2003).
So if you’ve not seen them it’s probably better not to read on..
A CURIOUS FILM
Kill list is one of the more talked about modern British films, in fact I think Ben Wheatley has sparked off a lot of new interest in his films by making them rather curious, most of it is missed in one single sitting and do advise that you watch it again for full appreciation. It’s one of those films that when you get to the end (and if you enjoyed the film) then you’ll want to go through it again looking for clues and hints that show the path in which Jay was being led. Although nothing is written in stone it’s all up for interpretation. And here are a few of my ideas and way out theories.
During some of the early opening scenes where the characters are being introduced there is a seen which is reminiscent of the end of the movie, Jay acquires some play swords while out on a disastrous shopping trip. He then play fights with his family, at one point Shel has Sam on her back and Jay is stabbing them, this is a reenactment of the Hunchback scene at the end.
OCCULT THEMES THROUGHOUT?
I find that a lot of Ben’s movies have Occult themes chucked in when you least expect it. Once you settle into the flow of drama suddenly everything goes ape-schit and you find yourself stuck in a cult slaying. Evidence of the occult strings that Ben seems attached to is obvious even in his short segment in the ABC’s of death (2012), and the epic A Field in England (2013) where the young director went full steam down the strange magical path, I often wonder if he’s related to Dennis Wheatley?
As much as the film is in two discernible parts the second half has a lot more obvious occult imagery. But you can’t miss the few key scenes in the first half, Fiona scratching the “symbol” on the mirror and taking the piece of tissue with Jay’s blood on it. Why did she do this? The initial thought is correct, it’s something that occultist do to bewitch or control a person, you need something from them to alter their reality, how did she know it was Jays, if she hadn’t found it, how else would she have obtained a piece of him?! They made sure they had his blood in the meeting with the Client.
With the symbol carving it looks as if she has marked him for something, in fact she’s marked the entire household, if Jay alone; was her intended target she would have given him something specifically. Her work is done now; she does whatever she needs to Gal and leaves him. Then returns later to either hook up Shel and to keep an eye on Jay. This has two possible meanings, I assumed at first that she was merely keeping an eye on the situation, and helping to influence the rest of the family. But if you’re of the school of thought that would suggest Shel was in on this, then maybe the two witches were meeting up for a little drink!? (I know occultists aren’t witches!! It just sounds good).
It’s not so strange that they only took blood from Jay (again) at the meeting with The Client. But never Gals blood!? I’ve been into the occult for some time but I’ve never heard of anyone being targeted like this, of course there are things that i don’t know.
Unlike a lot of other occult movies, Kill List doesn’t make any attempt to explain or educate the viewer on the aspects of the occult that it deals with, films like Skeleton Key (2005) and Devil Rides Out (1968) go through hoops to ensure the viewer is up to date with the occult ceremonies and theory use to devise the story. Kill List absolutely avoids all of this, possibly because it’s a fabricated occult theory ?
One minor point that I eventually picked up on, Jay does say abracadabra a lot! He also pulls the tablecloth off the table like a (talentless) magician. okay WILD THEORY alert! Is this something similar to Angel Heart (1987) where Jay was a magician who got caught up in some occult trouble and tried to hide inside a soldier in the kiev!? okay maybe not.
MEANING OF THE MURDERS
The targets given to Gal and Jay seem quite precise, and are identified by their profession. There are no names mentioned just literally their role. What is it that is so special about their occupation? Each of them is expecting Jay and to be killed by Jay and thank Jay for the privilege. It got me thinking about a connection between the characters. A niggling part of my brain was trying to link this to a folklore story like John Barleycorn and maybe this is a new rendition of it. it seems to have a lot of purpose and drive.. Alas I couldn’t find any olde English lore’s that had a similar theme but (and you’ll have to bear with me on this) I’ve linked the film to the Journey of the Fool, which is the story of the tarot cards.. It’s a long shot but here goes.
The tarot is often read as story, going from 0-22 and using the major Arcana. It’s commonly known as the journey of the fool and as much as it’s one of those vague stories that you could relate to a lot of films, it links in with Kill List.. just enough.. if you squint and use your imagination.
Journey of the fool
||At birth, the Fool is set in the middle of his own individual universe. He is strangely empty (as is zero), but imbued with a desire to go forth and learn. This undertaking would seem to be folly, but is it?
||Instantly the fool meets the magician and high priestess
||The Magician is the positive side. He represents the active, masculine power of creative impulse. He is also our conscious awareness.
||The High Priestess is the negative side. She is the mysterious unconscious.
||The Empress (3) represents the world of nature and sensation
||He is the representative of structure and authority. through the patient direction of the Father, the Fool begins to understand their purpose.
||He is exposed to the beliefs and traditions of his culture and begins his formal education. The Hierophant (5) represents the organized belief systems
||He experiences the powerful urge for sexual union with another person. The Fool also needs to decide upon his own beliefs. It is well enough to conform while he learns and grows, but at some point, he must determine his own values if he is to be true to himself. He must start to question received opinion
||Gal and FionaJay and Shel
||Through discipline and will-power, he has developed an inner control which allows him to triumph over his environment.
||Jay starts getting hyped up and gets into the killing
||He is pressed to develop his courage and resolve and find the heart to keep going despite setbacks.
||And kicks off..
||the Fool is led to ask himself the age-old question “Why?” He becomes absorbed with the search for answers, he looks inwards
|WHEEL OF FORTUNE
||Fool may recognize his destiny in the sequence of events that led him to this turning point.
||The demands of Justice (11) must be served so that he can wipe the slate clean.
||Killing of jays cat
||He believes he has sacrificed everything, his world has been turned upside-down
||Hanged woman and the
||The Fool now begins to eliminate old habits and tired approaches
||This character is a hermaphrodite and there is a emotional pendulum involved
||Jay as the antichrist!
Yeah it’s a lose theory..
Each killing was pretty unique, although there was a running theme of the victims thanking Jay before the final blow is made. Was Jay really doing them a favour? My first thoughts revolve around a possible Suicide Club. Then as the creepy occult side takes centre show I wonder if Jay is a tool in order to help these people into some kind of satanic paradise. He is a big catalyst in this movie but it’s hard to work out if the influence is internal or not.
PRIEST – there was a lot of talk about religion in the beginning, Fiona stated that she couldn’t understand the power struggles in Northern Ireland as they “are all Christian” and Gal took it to heart, he also had bad vibes about killing the priest and used that excuse to let jay do it. Jay makes reference to killing a priest at least once. Then they have to kill a priest. Gal takes a stance back feeling uncomfortable about this but Jay relishes in the shooting. The only thing that makes him hesitate is when the priest says thank you but Jay really has no problems with this.
LIBRARIAN – this one was the most enjoyable for Jay, he really relished in torturing and killing the paedophile, this comes after a discussion between Gal and Jay about what to do if the guy had a dog, he then find out where the other paedophiles were hiding out and brutally kills them AND their dog… it’s as if Jay’s predictions of the future are pretty accurate now! I’ll also add in that this scene is amazing! ( not that i relish in just the violence) the cutting of the scene is perfect, the coldness of Jay, the starkness of the screaming the sudden cut scenes in and out of screams, adds to the impact. The Librarian insists that he is just a librarian, he tells Jay that he’s privileged to have met him and understands what he needs to do. He does this after Gal leaves the room as he only wanted Jay to know. It’s like Jay should be in on this, but obviously he isn’t. One thing that I didn’t quite buy in on, didn’t the librarian have any neighbours, didn’t ANYONE hear him screaming?? Also the insistent use of a hammer on this is slightly reminiscent of Oldboy (2003)
MP – this one was a little vague on the first viewing I just assumed that Jay and Gal were sent to kill the MP in order to get them in the right place at the right time so to speak. I thought at first that this was an additional job but the boys were simply paid more to do the work. I assume the gentleman in the waistcoat near the hanging woman (the bride) is the MP as he opened his arms and thanks Jay for killing him. No idea why everyone else got so blood lusty and try to kill Gal and Jay, I assumed they would be happy to welcome their new satanic buddy, if that’s indeed what he is.
HUNCHBACK – after the “reconstruction” an additional killing is magically added to the list, this is the Hunchback, or was that the MP?! if it was the MP then who was the third victim before reconstruction?! The hunchback turns out to be jays family, his last connection with the past. This scene reflects the beginning of the movie, although i don’t think that Shel is laughing to show that she’s in on the whole ploy to get Jay to this ritual killing, instead I think she’s laughing out of the absurdity of the whole thing.
Despite this being a supposed team effort, Gal doesn’t hurt of kill anyone. In fact he turns out to be a pretty decent guy. He puts the youngen to bed when mummy and daddy are fighting, he apologises to the Christians playing and praying to the lord during the meal (notice Robin Hill’s little cameo here and his fathers at the end). Throughout the film it’s hard to know which side Gal is on. While he’s working with Jay he doesn’t actually do much in the way. It’s quite interesting that Robin makes an appearance, he has now been in several of Wheatley’s movies but was also co star of Borderlands (2013), a similar mysterious pagan rooted style film but with a much more enhanced found footage style, whereas Kill List has a documentary style to it’s filming.
THE CREEPY AWARD GOES TO – FIONA!!
Fiona was seriously a creepy girl, not that many of the characters put anyone at ease. Fiona is seriously creepy. She turns up at the dinner party acting all creepy carving on the backs of peoples furniture and shit, she then starts phoning and leaving messages for Gal and Jay, then later on the in movie she is waving at Jay from the shrubbery like a ghost. Despite Struan’s strange cryptic character, Fiona outdoes him on the creepy scale. I couldn’t quite work out why Gal had to shave but I assume it’s because Fiona creeped him out too and did she REALLY stick a Dear John to his cock? Fiona.. stop! She also brings Sam a present and leaves messages via Shel. A little weird piece is that when Shel and Jay are talking and she mentions that Sam is having nightmares about the cat, she also mentions that Fiona has brought a present for the boy. Is this a suggestion that she also left the dead rabbit?
I’ve studied the occult, magic and such pagan religions for a number of years but I’ve never seen the symbol in this movie. I suppose it’s been devised by Ben to look like it means something, as opposed to using an existing symbol. A lot of sigil and symbolic magic is adapted to fit the purposes of the user and is therefore is always different.
Overall the symbol looks like the top of the Blair Witch symbol, take off the legs and flip it upside down. But I can’t find any other references to the symbol. It would suggest ascension of some sort. It’s interesting that Ben seems to have devised a system and history here; it’s much safer to do so than to start stepping on toes.
THE CLIENT AND RECONSTRUCTION.
Let’s look at the dictionary definition.
“Build or form (something) again after it has been damaged or destroyed.”
It’s never obvious what or who is being reconstructed. The assumption is that it’s the situation, Jay and Gal were trying to turn the scales and the Client has to get them back on track.
What a strange situation. And who just sits there and tries to “Re-construct” a situation, a peculiar choice of wording. Struan Rodger was going to be my top contender for the Creepy awards but Fiona out did him just a little bit. He really is a creepy SOB.
CUTTING OF THE HAND
The cut on the hand in the hotel seemed a fairly odd thing to do. It seemed it was an action for Jay to “sign” the contract, although it’s only the Client whose blood touches the paper, I suppose a mixture of the two as he has just cut Jays hand with the same knife. As mentioned before Gal was excluded and didn’t kill anyone either. Is this contract really being signed in blood?! Gotta be with the devil right? But then the forever bleeding had is almost a reference to the stigmata.
The cut festers and gradually irritates Jay more throughout until he decides to visit his doctor. But his doctor isn’t there and the replacement gives him some strange advice. Now this group have somehow got enough control to remove or incapacitate Jay’s doctor to put one of their own in his place. Also at this stage of the movie Jays entire body starts to look infected, like the hand wound is spreading to the rest of him. Is this a symbol that he’s mutating.
THE DOCTORS ADVICE
The “doctor” gives Jay some strange advice, it’s actually a Buddhist quote, I suppose it’s relevant in some way but I can’t quite feature it myself. It does give an indication that Jay is at a turning point, this past indeed as gone and the future is to come, but he needs to concentrate on the now.
THE BRIDE AND HER FATHER
Now this was unexpected… Talk about coming straight out of left field. Which is just how Ben Wheatley likes to deliver his movies. By this stage in the movie I have to admit that anything goes, I shouldn’t really have been shocked. But the significance of her death seemed a little perplexing. The only link I can think of here is the Money Dance, an oldish European tradition where a bride wears a custom made piney which money is pinned to it and she dances for them. They say the hangman’s noose makes people dance. So is this girl a representation of the marriage of death, or just another willing victim for Jay. Strangely she does fit in with the tarot theory. After actually paying attention to the credits there is reference to a Bride, DOH! I didn’t have to use my grey matter on this one after all. then it all suddenly dawned on me. When the boys go back to the Client and he explains that they are just cogs there is a another man in the room, this is the Brides Father!? I think. he lays out some more money, i suppose his daughters dowry then hey sacrificially hang her in a frame quite similar to the “symbol” now I don’t know how this all fits in with Jay but these individual pieces fit together better now.
CROWN OF THORNS
The girl with the thorn crown blinding her was another strange addition to the end of the film. She is silent and only seen a few times at the end. there is no mention of her apart from her casting title of THORN BLINDFOLD WOMAN. okay wait for this one. in parts of Greece they “crown” the bride with a wreath of the thorny acanthus plant which is also fragrant and the custom symbolizes the need for the groom to be patient with his bride. Is this ANOTHER BRIDE!? is everyone getting married here. Jay get crowned after the final killing and everyone applauds. What is Jay the king of now?
I didn’t catch this until a 20th viewing but everything leads up to the full moon. it’s only a few days into the cycle but the last killing of the Hunchback, is a full moon.
Another small note, is the recurring references to fires. Jay mentions how he use to love looking at fires as a child, the killers cremate all the bodies they dispose of. I’m not sure it’s the most effective way to get rid of a body as it might leave some dental records BUT does it make all of those people burnt offerings??
DEAD PRESENTS – RABBIT/CAT
Typical animals sacrifices are dogs, cats, frogs and rabbits. The most desired animal of sacrifice is the goat. Salt may also be present at the scene. Another regular sign of satanic cult activity is the presence of and desecration of Christian symbols such as statues, crosses, chalices, and so forth.
When Jay finds the rabbit killed on the lawn, he assumes its a present from the cat, and decides to cook it and eat it, not the normal behavior but he recognizes that it’s something left for him as a tribute and just assumes it from the cat, although it could be argued that its from the cult.
JAY IS THE ANTICHRIST?
It’s pretty easy to assume that Jay is being led down a certain path into becoming a weapon or that he has been specifically chosen to perform a task that different from the list of killings that he’s been hired for. Ben Wheatley and Any Jump are extremely clever in giving us enough hints of a secret behind the scenes mission and I think that’s a lot of the charm of Kill List.
WHAT HAPPENED IN KIEV?
For all we know Jay might have been leading up to this stage in his life for a long time. This group could have been grooming him for a longer time that we know. Just because the film starts at the stage doesn’t mean this is all of it. I don’t think it’s a total accident that Jay is simply an expert killer with such tendencies. Obviously his behavior has been augmented somewhat during the course of the movie but who knows what upbringing or training he’s had before hand, say in his teens etc.
THE END AND WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Jay has no one by the end of the film, Gal is dead and Jay has just slaughtered his family. Much is the similarity to the Mist (2007) and a Serbian Film (2010) the main protagonist end up maiming of killing his family. So Jay is left with a shocked look on his face in a field with a bunch of occultist. Only a few things can happen here, Jay can carry on with his kill spree and kill the occultists, he might do himself in, of if he really is the Antichrist then he’ll start to lead his flock. It’s a peculiar open ending.
Now there could be a few interesting angles here, we could finally find out what the hell went down in Kiev!! Maybe we could explore other ways in which Jay has been groomed by this cult, if in fact that’s what has happened.
Oooh to be honest I wouldn’t imagine that there will be a prequel or sequel, I think we all of Ben’s movies they stand alone and hold their own. I’ve not looked for fan fiction, comics etc. I think any comics of kill list would be quite interesting and hopefully in a dark and stark style of Dead Man’s Shoes (2004). If there was to be a sequel I don’t know if it would be nearly as mysterious as this. If Hollywood ever got hold of it, Jay would be in an asylum and they would lash on the heavy flashing photography style of filming through cut scenes of this great movie. But considering the vagueness of the film and how hard it can be to pin items down. I would imagine any future movies would try to impose too many answers and ruin the whole effect.
If there ever was a sequel then I wouldn’t know where it would start. I’d imagine it would be a prequel and hopefully it will answer more questions about Kiev. Is Jay a proper satanic sleeper agent in a similar vein as Dragon (2011) or History of Violence (2005). Maybe playing out this cycle in another kill list!?
I think the film is steeped in just enough hints of cult activity and is flavoured with strangeness but none of it directly links with documented folklore or real mysticism. Unless Ben and Amy are uncovering old practices that are yet to be documented. .. But its enough to get the mind working along those lines when looking for answers and trying to understand the story.
This is what is amazing about Kill List, you are the pivotal point in which the movie revolves around with your personal understanding and just how far you’re willing to go mentally. Ben has always stressed that he likes to give people something to think about, and as much as it really sparks something in volatile minds like my own and kills off interest from people who want to be told a story, what he seems to also mix into his work is the unique ability to create
One of the reasons why Kill List is so brilliant is that a lot of it is mysterious after the end. Ben Wheatley you have indeed served up the story you promised and it is very thought provoking.
For anyone who reads my blog I promise that the post discussion section won’t be this scatter brained in future I’ve possibly picked a rare movie to kick start this off all again!