SXSW Review: Kill List Is Full Of Scares And Jaw-Dropping Surprises

What was the last legitimately terrifying movie you saw?

British director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) unearths true fear in his latest, Kill List, a film that could be classified as "horror" but looks and feels nothing like its contemporaries. The movie puts jump scares or silly, over-the-top violence aside in favor of an engrossing mystery that sucks you in, whiplashes you back and forth, then patiently waits for you to return. Lost by way of the slow burn, R-rated thriller.

Kill List drops us straight into an argument between Jay and his wife Shel, two former army officers whose vicious spat sets the tone for the entire picture. Shel's pissed because Jay hasn't had a job in over eight months. Jay's angry because... well, Jay appears to be angry at everything. Their marital problems are interrupted by Jay's former cohort Gal, who arrives for dinner to present Jay with a new business opportunity. Gal's new girlfriend Fiona, on the other hand, appears to have tagged along to the couples date for other reasons. Mainly, to mark Jay's home with a haunting geometrical symbol we first see alongside the film's title card.

"WTF" has never been more apt.

Kill List evolves and mutates from familial drama into something more twisted as Jay and Gal set off on a deadly mission. Explaining more would be moot -- for 90 minutes the movie toys with audience expectations, peppering every moment with imagery and actions that are shocking, hysterical and gripping. Wheatley isn't shy when to comes to depicting Jay's hysterical tendencies and Kill List exhibits some seriously graphic (but never gratuitous) violence, underneath of which burn more and more questions.

Kill List is rooted in mood and, in this case, it's one that's scary as hell. Wheatley's characters are fully fleshed out people, fighting for their lives in the torturous world they've found themselves in, but the director purposefully leaves plenty to the imagination (or does he?!) to keep minds racing and butts on the edge of their seats. Kill List is hands-down the best flick of SXSW and one that's not easily described. That's a good thing -- less is more when you're looking for real scares and Kill List is more than ready to serve them up.