Everything about The Killing of a Sacred Deer gets ingrained in your mind. Director Yorgos Lanthimos forces you to pay attention to every single detail. When watching, you’ll have no idea where the story is going to take you. Lanthimos’ deadpan humour ripples beneath the surface and there are no clear answers. Is this a revenge movie? A journey of moral imperatives? Horror? Satire? Let’s take a look! (no major spoilers)
Colin Farrell plays Steven Murphy, a wealthy heart surgeon. He lives in a mansion with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two kids, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). This picture-perfect family starts to fall apart when Martin (Barry Keoghan), a boy Steven has taken under his wing, turns sinister.
Keoghan had a supporting role in Dunkirk and in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he is terrifying. His relaxed demeanour and flat tone of voice suggest innocence, but you can sense the threat underneath. He mixes power and child-like vulnerability, and the effect is bone-chilling. Martin shoulders his way into Steven’s life and family. He visits his home, shows up at the hospital where Steven works and makes an impression on Kim. This is not a life-invasion narrative, as Steven is the one who first invites him into the family home. He feels responsible for Martin’s tragic past, so wants to look out for him.
For a while, things seem fine, but in an awkward kind of way. As the audience, we know there’s something not quite right. There’s a sense things could turn bad at any moment and it’s the way the film is shot that gives off this effect. Cameras creep through large hospital corridors, creating the feeling of dread and unease. The film plays mind games with the viewer, so prepare for an anxious watch, especially in the first-forty five minutes.
Later, Martin puts all cards on the table. He gives Stephen an ultimatum and the screws turn on the family, at which point the film becomes a bona fide psycho-thriller. The direction it takes will stun you. It becomes such a harrowing experience that you could almost accuse it of being sadistic.
As Steven realises the gravity of his situation, he takes drastic measures to put a stop to Martin’s twisted games. Colin Farrell is great, keeping the story compelling with an assured performance.
Kidman, too, turns in fine work. Her ghost-like presence adds to the film’s haunting tone. Interestingly, the setting in The Killing of a Sacred Deer is far more “realistic” than Lanthimos’ other films and if anything, it’s a flaw. There’s a lot of time spent on the mundane moments of everyday life and these are its weakest points. Yet, it doesn’t change the fact it challenges viewers and unleashes fierce horror. The small bits of humour only serve as a relief until you’re forced back into the madness.
You’ll have your own personal reaction to this strange film. I veered towards confused, creeped-out and fascinated. Conventional modes of storytelling get thrown out the window. It’s cold, calculated and a career-best from everyone involved.
Check out the trailer below!
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Alicia Silverstone, Barry Keoghan, Bill Camp, Sunny Suljic
Run Time: 121 min