Movie review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star in a truly offbeat psychological horror film

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
(Zabití posvátného jelena)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
With Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp

The end of the year brings some more complex films, as the summer blockbusters slowly work their way out of the theaters.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has been at the head of the new “weird wave” of Greek cinema, and his latest effort, his second film in English, does not disappoint.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer won the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes film festival. The film has elements of horror with some touches of black comedy and, as the title hints, some thematic references to Greek tragedy.

Lanthimos, who made the 2015 hit Lobster, creates a strange world that seems perfect on its surface, but clearly, that is an illusion. Dr. Steven Murphy (played by Colin Farrell), his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two children, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic) live in a large house and have unnaturally upbeat conversations, but in a flat tone. The children never act up. The scenes of awkward domestic bliss are also drawn out at a slow pace, with some very personal details randomly thrown in. Watching them at home seems a bit voyeuristic, like peeping through a window.

But that is not the most unsettling aspect. Steven has an, even more, stranger relationship with a boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan) he meets at local diners and out-of-the-way places like the waterfront. He gives him gifts and hugs him. These meetings are perhaps not what they seem at first, but the film takes a long time to reveal what is behind them. The film goes in a very different direction than the first few scenes might suggest.

Steven eventually introduces Martin to his family and the young man becomes friends with and the Murphy children, but conversation remains peculiarly stilted.

From there, the film slowly turns into a horror story that doesn't neatly fit into any established category.

Lanthimos creates a mood somewhat akin to David Lynch's films, with dark things just beneath the surface of idyllic scenes. There is also a touch of David Cronenberg's body horror coming from the medical scenes. There is a sex scene between Steven and his wife, where Anna pretends to be passed out under general anesthetic. It is not really necessary for the plot; it serves to boost the overall creepiness of the domestic bliss.

Barry Keoghan as Martin is central to the success of the film. The young actor appeared recently in Dunkirk and is emerging as a major talent. Martin is a difficult role, someone who treads on the edge of sanity. He has to seem normal while harboring a dark potential.

Colin Farrell perhaps is underrated as an actor. Given the chance, he can be quite versatile. He appeared in Lanthimos' previous film Lobster. Farrell usually plays extroverted characters. As the somewhat monotone and emotionally flat doctor, he is quite compelling.

Nicole Kidman appeared recently in the dark period drama The Beguiled with Colin Farrell. They make a good screen team. Kidman has been in a number of horror films as well such as The Others and Dead Calm. She is good in scenes that call for her to be tough and argumentative, as well as manipulative.

Clueless star Alicia Silverstone turns up all too briefly, also doing well in an unglamorous role, showing she can do serious work when she wants to.

Like the recent film Mother! by Darren Aronofsky, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an art-house horror film that is likely to polarize the audience into those that love it and those that hate it. The lack of explanation behind some key events in both films will leave some people cold, while others will embrace the fantasy elements fused onto otherwise mundane domestic situations.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer keeps the audience guessing as to what is really going on and what is a fantasy in Martin's head, and how the situation can be resolved.

Yorgos Lanthimos has become a name to watch, and he gets excellent work out of stars that can deliver when they are given good material and guidance.

Video on YouTube

Related articles

Facebook comments

The James Joyce Irish Pub

Best Irish Pub in Prague

Pražské Benátky

Enjoy Prague from a different view

Ristorante Casa de Carli

Authentic Italian cuisine in Prague

Legans Law Office s.r.o.

We help you to master Czech bureaucracy.

Ing. Kristina Krčmářová -...

Certified Czech tax advisor with fluency in English.

Sauna Central - RELAXATION...

Sauna in the city centre of Prague.

Green Fox Academy

Become a software developer in Prague

Prague’s # 1 source for Czech news in English…

Digital lifestyle magazine platform promoting life in Prague.