Wheatley caught up with Indiewire to discuss his need to traumatize audiences and what he has in the works. How would you characterize the film on your own terms? I think my understanding of what a scary film is kind of broader than the straight-up genre definitions of what a horror film might be. I guess that you could see that in a lot of war films. But I think you can be traumatized by a movie and I think that any movie that traumatizes you is a horror film, regardless of how many creatures it has in it. I think that you then guarantee that your film has moments in it instead of just plot.
A lot of it is inspired by my anxieties and dreams, or should I say nightmares.
I used to live near the woods. These things, culturally, are quite close to the surface in the UK. Well, it was that, but it was more. I knew that it was a recurring thing and it scared me when I was little, so I suspected that it would scare a broader audience. It depends on what kind of viewer you are. It depends on your practices as a viewer and if you consume all information about films at all times, then I suspect that all films will be ruined for you.
I found the most unflinching scene probably to be the early domestic dispute that takes place at a small dinner party. How did you arrive at that very lived in realness with the cast that makes that scene so raw?
Refresh and try again. I think Shel seemed too genuinely distraught to be in on it. Answer: "Well hadn't but now I have. If you like Forsyth, you might like this book, but it's definitely not his strongest work. Kissellian Mar 18,
The script is written specifically for the performers. So that kind of gives you a head start when you hit the ground on the first day. Not to say that Neil Maskell is a psychotic maniac, but he can go from being in normal conversation to being quite aggressive quite quickly.
Michael Smiley is the same. It does kind of ratchet up and down wildly all day long. And like all good horror films, Kill List is really about something else. At its base, it's about money, what we do to get it and how we've come to worship it. What's the point of making anything unless it's a reaction to the time you live in? Otherwise you're just going through the motions, copying something that's happened before just because you liked it.
But that's not enough for me. You've got to look at the reality of what's going on. We've just had two major wars going on that nobody seemed to be that bothered about. They were just rolling along. Even though a million people marched and said, 'Stop it,' they just went ahead. And then there's the recession.
So I wanted to make a film about a family that was living with that. They're a kind of 'stock' family, but they're under a lot of contemporary pressure because they're in a lot of debt. And once you're in that world of debt, there's no way to turn the boat around, is there? You can't do it fast enough. You're locked in. And that's the same for everyone. Something that also seems very relevant is that Kill List is about people with no moral compass, including Jay's wife, who is complicit in his crimes.
Hitmen are not good people. They're … fuckers!!!
But I've always liked the idea in Stanley Kubrick 's that, because he's been lied to, the computer goes insane, because he's essentially an honest creature and he can't deal with the human idea of mistruth; they won't tell him what the mission is. And that's kind of what I was thinking about these two guys. They've been to Afghanistan, and a lot of these places, but they know, in the backs of their minds, that, even though they're doing a job, what they're doing is not necessarily justified.
They'd rather have been in the second world war, which, in retrospect, was a clean, understandable war. But this stuff isn't. In that way, the film's about the whole erosion of the social contract — as we've just seen with the riots as well. Wheatley's thoughts about these issues are reflected in the film's abrasive visual style.
Though Jump doesn't physically get involved in the actual shooting of the scripts "It's all a bit high-pressure and shouty" , Wheatley says she was very involved with all the staccato tics that were added in the edit suite. Neither are interested in the rules of proper film-making. But I guess what I'm trying to do is use realist camerawork and realist performances to give more weight to the drama within the piece, using a psychology that people understand.
Which all makes the film sound somewhat worthy. By the end, though, Kill List is anything but a socio-realist polemic. Did you see the ending of Jaws coming? Did you know the shark would die? Do you get a special badge for that?