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Director

Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring

  • Colin Farrell as Steven Murphy
  • Nicole Kidman as Anna Murphy
  • Barry Keoghan as Martin
  • Raffey Cassidy as Kim Murphy
  • Sunny Suljic as Bob Murphy
  • Alicia Silverstone as Martin’s Mother

An unsettling psychological horror with the trademark Yorgos Lanthimos touch and reference to Greek myth, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is very disturbing but impossible to turn away from.

Cardiologist Steven Murphy has it all; a great career, a beautiful ophthalmologist wife Anna and two young, well-behaved children, Kim and Bob. His picture perfect life in the suburbs is seemingly here to stay, but there is a tiny and disturbing hitch too it. He has a friendship with a 16-year-old boy named Martin, who he meets and showers gifts upon. Although is friendly with Martin and introduces him to his family, there is something decidedly off about the whole arrangement that you can’t shake. And soon enough, the demanding Martin, when he’s not trying to set up Steven with his mother, becomes a thorn in side. He becomes more dependent and doesn’t seem to understand that his presence is not always needed. His obsession grows and starts to worry Steven, who mainly took interest in the boy after his father, who he treated earlier, died . Then, out of nowhere, Bob loses the use of his legs and is hospitalised. This is soon followed by Kim, which begins to have an impact on Anna who is in the dark on what is happening. Steven starts to unravel too as things turn worse for his idyllic family and he’s thrown into a tailspin. Yet as illness sets in, an increasingly menacing Martin reminds Steven of a past mistake of his that links to the young boy’s life. Soon everything is under crisis and  Steven’s existence is torn apart by his past actions and the boy who wants to even what he sees as the score.

With a catalogue of films that revel in dark subject matter, unusually black humour and an all round weirdness, Yorgos Lanthimos has really made a name for him. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is Yorgos Lanthimos working fluently and creatively to fashion a story of deep-seated revenge and culpability. He has this bubbling intensity and creeping eeriness that happens right from the startling opening of an open heart surgery. You know from that point on it’s going to be a disturbing movie, but what a movie it is. Lanthimos is in control here; cold and calculating in the style of Stanley Kubrick whose work clearly has an imprint. And while Martin is what seems to be the main antagonist of the piece, the other characters also sport unusual tendencies that mark them out as not as innocent or polished as they outwardly appear. For example, Steven is an arrogant man who can’t handle not being able to exercise control over things. This extends to his love life with his wife, who he has pretend to be under anaesthetic when getting intimate. The deadpan, almost robotic way of talking that has come to populate the work of Lanthimos is here, but does also allow for shadings of emotion and drama in there. And the uneasy and uncomfortable humour further sears itself on to the mind, as characters behave in ways that seem at once alien and yet so ordinary. It’s the kind of humour that you don’t know whether to laugh at or question, and is all the better for it. It sure keeps you on your toes as you navigate another weird world from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos. And though some of it might sound familiar to lovers of psychological horror, it’s the execution that truly counts and Sacred Deer delivers with its own twist on things.

With long corridors of scrubbed white, cavernous interiors and a zooming, voyeuristic camera, The Killing of a Sacred Deer also deserves praises for what it visually gets across to the viewer. It’s a sinister and slithering atmosphere of increased dread as evil and retribution combine and you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Credit must go to the cinematographer that is Thimios Bakatakis for imbuing The Killing of a Sacred Deer with such an impending aura of doom and inevitable woe. We often observe characters from a distance or from a looming height; neatly edited and giving the impression of spying on events as they take shape.  The whole psychological aspect of having to make a horrifying decision for something you’ve done is creepy and more than makes its mark on you as the gears of tension continue turning. Discordant strings telegraph that something is not right from the word go and the addition of opera accentuates the tragedy here. The film is influenced by a Greek myth that gives the movie its title and accordingly, the swelling and rumbling of music heralds the approaching agony of loss and blame. Those looking for a comfortable viewing experiences better check those expectations at the door as The Killing of a Sacred Deer is not one for the easily frightened or spooked.

Colin Farrell, who was so good in The Lobster, plays someone spineless and full of themselves here. His character’s  life is so meticulous and to his liking that it’s given a royal kicking when horror unravels. Sporting a bushy beard and his real accent, Farrell is extremely watchable as the cardiologist haunted by the past. Equally as good is the ever dependable Nicole Kidman, who’s been on a roll recently with her performances. With her face that silently projects inner turmoil and frazzled intensity, she’s ideal for the role here that could have easily just been a throwaway part. With Kidman in it, it’s impossible for it to be anything less than stellar, particularly when she comes into her own in the latter half of the film and everything gets laid bare. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is my first introduction to young actor Barry Keoghan. And if the rest of career is as good as his work here, great things await him indeed. He has this naturally mysterious and sinister presence, complimented by how he speaks the dialogue in a halting but intimidating way. It’s enough to set you on edge and Keoghan knocks it out the park as a vengeful teen, dishing out his brand of justice to an idyllic family. Raffey Cassidy plays the daughter of Steven and Anna; who is drawn to Martin even though he’s the one out to ruin her family. Young Sunny Suljic portrays the son, who is the first to fall ill and crank up the eeriness. And it’s nice to see Alicia Silverstone back on screen again with a very memorable one scene performance. She gets the movie’s best line after she is rejected by Steven for putting the moves on him. Everyone gets in to the mindset of the film and the unusual demands of it.

A spine-chilling, deeply unnerving and memorable horror/thriller with psychological terror at the centre, The Killing of a Secret Deer is a haunting movie that is hard to shake off.

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