The Killing of a Sacred Deer: ★★★★1/2
Leaving the cinema with deeper frown lines than you had before, bags under your eyes and a migraine, this will be the first time this feeling of frenzy will seem like a favour to you.
The main protagonist and heart surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) is paying his debts after a failed surgery during his drinking problem years prior. His patient’s son, Martin, attempts to balance out the events in what turns into a bizarre, almost supernatural, revenge tragedy. And no, it’s not what you think. This boy doesn’t break into the house with a knife, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is much more surrealistic and contorted than that.
Yorgos Lanthimos has persisted his puzzling nature in a film that doesn’t rely on jump–scares or little ghost-girls to be horrific. There was all the opportunity to make this a truly chilling horror. And it would have been great. But better than that: the terror comes from complex, authentic psychological twists and turns, that make this film bloodcurdling.
“Don’t be scared, you’ll see- soon you won’t be able to move either”
The deadpan, brick-wall dialogue could be found jarring at first, but that’s par-for-the-course for Yorgos’ work. Eventually, however, this adds a dark humour. Which is great considering the inevitability of death for half of the cast. The dialogue also seems to loosen up as the film goes on, gradually becoming more unraveled, just like the characters. Every single main cast member excels in the story. Despite dialogue that may seem like a limitation, every cast member seems to really understand the film’s purpose and style. Most noticeably, Nicole Kidman delivered a harsh performance, with a character so fierce yet so unstable.
There is a fear of style over substance in the first half of the film, with it being largely guesswork. It is indeed shot beautifully, with not-so-subtle nods towards a clinical, detached theme of delusion. It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear complaints of “well people just like it because it was ‘artsy’”. However, as soon as the children return home from the hospital, the dread kicks in. The Killing of a Sacred Deer becomes more than just another movie that feels like an Indie film.
“A surgeon never kills a patient.”
Martin’s character is something of a pain in the arse, in the best possible way. Frustrating and ominous but completely fascinating. His actual grievance is somewhat plain when boiled down, but his grudge is entirely distressing. He taunts the viewer with a menacing obscurity which Barry Keoghan nails. Who knew that eating spaghetti could be so terrifying?
Yet again, Lanthimos has succeeded in being the filmmaker equivalent of scratching nails against a chalkboard. Leaving you unsure of whether to laugh or wince, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a conversation-starter for any film fans.
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