Is IFC Midnight's Brutal Pick-Up Kill List the Dogtooth of SXSW '11?
The psycho-sexual anthology Little Deaths made a minor splash at SXSW as the Serbian Film of this year's fest, leaving many searching for the film most analogous to Ben Wheatley's even better-loved SXFantastic buzz film Kill List. But while parallels to previous SXSW hits like Monsters and Wheatley's own Down Terrace have been drawn, another entry from last year's festival circuit instead comes to mind: Yorgos Lanthimos' crazypants domestic drama Dogtooth.
Kill List follows ex-soldier Jay (Neil Maskell) who, hounded by financial and marital woes, accepts a contract killing gig with a former buddy (Michael Smiley). As the two friends cross off target after target for a mysterious client, Jay finds himself giving into his swelling blood-lust.
Admittedly, comparing movies to other movies on the basis of notoriety and loose commonalities is a tenuous practice, and on its face Kill List (a twisty British hit man thriller-horror) might seem nothing like the Greek Oscar nominee (about a family who lives in a walled-in compound under peculiar circumstances) which played SXSW last year after debuting at Cannes and hit DVD shelves in January. But consider the common elements and reported post-film responses: A domestic drama that evolves into something more sinister, brutal moments involving everyday household objects, a conclusion that takes the viewer by surprise yet delivers on groundwork laid from the very start, and a lingering feeling that most folks at SXSW reported as "unsettling" and "disquieting" -- in a good way.
Truthfully, the SXSW analogy between this year's Little Deaths and the 2010 shocker A Serbian Film may be even more accurate, especially owing to the perverse sexual acts and violence depicted in both. A Serbian Film premiered last year at SXSW and recently blew back into the spotlight at the center of child pornography allegations based on its extreme content, while the three-parter Little Deaths (directed by Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, and Simon Rumley) similarly pushes the boundaries of deviant sexual behavior.
But as soon as IFC Midnight acquired Kill List on Tuesday and quickly began earning rave word of mouth among critics, Wheatley's film became the must-see horror pic of the week. Critical praise seemed near-unanimous.
"Unexpected, unsettling, unforgettable -- and a poison-dark pleasure full of rough, amazing stuff and wicked, willful surprises." -- MSN Movies columnist James Rocchi, @jamesrocchi
"Trust me when I say that you have never seen a hammer used as effectively, cruelly, and beautifully as you will here. Seriously, prepare to wince." -- Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
"It forced an audience to slow down a bit, to get used to the characters and the story threads ... and then pulled the rug out from beneath the viewer, leaving them to marvel at the weird and darkly amusing machinations that are churning beneath the surface." -- Scott Weinberg, Fearnet
There's plenty of time yet to see if another film emerges as the new Dogtooth of this year, with more similar aesthetic sensibilities; Lanthimos' own next film, Alps, might just be the only thing that could possibly come close -- just as Tom Six's Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) will probably be the only film that could ever replicate the feeling of the first Human Centipede. IFC Midnight's digital VOD release of Kill List is still TBA.