Why You Should Watch “Kill List”

IN 30 YEARS, SOME FETED AUTEUR will spark a revival for Ben Wheatley’s off-Hollywood danse macabre “Kill List,” a piece of “White Light/White Heat” cinema currently making the rounds on streaming devices two years after it was released to wildly disparate reviews. Too grim and too odd for the majority of what newspapers would call “movie-goers,” it no doubt already has sown its seeds in the heads of dozens of aspiring filmmakers.

I spend a good part of my life looking for movies like “Kill List,” and it took two years and a Halloween hay ride through “best horror movies you’ve never seen” Google searches to discover its existence. Unfortunately, the very first list — which correctly made it the top horror movie of the new millennium — gave away the secret at its core by name-checking one movie. And although I was ultimately surprised by the denouement, I essentially knew what was happening.

“Kill List” is in many ways that movie’s direct inverse.

Yet it didn’t spoil the movie, nor did it stop me from thinking about for days afterward, because “Kill List” is not a stunt; it’s part allegory, part agitprop and all horror movie. The best piece I’ve yet read on “Kill List” compares it to “Mulholland Drive,” although in some ways it’s about as far as one can get from Lynch’s dreamy jigsaw. It also features the kind of Saviniesque in-camera FX one doesn’t see much anymore and a pair of remarkable performances by Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley at its center.

If this sounds as if it might be in your wheelhouse, watch it. It’s streaming on Netflix. But don’t read anything else about it until you’re done.