"The Killing of a Sacred Deer" Review
Just like the Greek myth its title comes from, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a well-made horror film that plays by its own rules and never lets you know what comes next.
Colin Farrell reteams with director Yorgos Lanthimos after making one of the best films of 2015, The Lobster. Here he plays Steven Murphy, a gifted surgeon married to an ophthalmologist, Anna (Nicole Kidman). They have two kids, teenager Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and younger Bob (Sunny Suljic). When he is not working or with his family, Steven is spending time with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a teenage boy whose father died while Steven was operating on him. Martin and Steven’s friendship doesn’t feel normal and fills you with discomfort every time they meet. Soon, terrible things start to happen that begin to unravel secrets that have fueled a personal vendetta.
Just like he did with The Lobster, Lanthimos makes a seemingly unrealistic situation feel like it really could happen. Most of this comes down to his writing that benefits from allowing great interactions between characters. Every scene with Martin and Steven is brilliant to watch as it reveals so much about each character through dialogue that is unrelatable to the main story. Lanthimos fills his screenplay with some of the weirdest and out-of-left-field dialogue that has been filmed. Because of this, the film takes two steps forward when it comes to building suspense and characters, but also one step back because some of the conversations become overly weird and distracting. The film also drags a bit in the middle part as the suspense slowly builds up to a brilliant ending that perfectly wraps everything up in an unforgettable and horrific sequence.
In addition to his writing, Lanthimos proves his mastery of the camera as he positions it perfectly to create a fantasy world for the characters, but also a real world for the audience. We get a mix of wide, closeup, and long shots that, while taking place in normal locations like a house or a hospital, give off a sense of otherworldliness and claustrophobia. It makes us think that the characters are all alone in the world and that there will be no help for them by the end.
The actors create one of the best ensembles of the year as each of them makes their characters memorable and mysterious. Colin Farrell perfectly captures the essence of a man who is too full of pride to see the harm in his mistakes. He’s collected but also unhinged when it comes to people doubting his actions, usually bursting out into a tirade of passive-aggressive remarks in order to reassert his dominance and pride. Nicole Kidman is also brilliant as her character tries to deal with the unfortunate circumstances that have been unfairly set upon her. She perfectly conveys a caring mother that is slowly beginning to lose hope that her situation will resolve itself.
The performance of the film goes to Barry Keoghan as Martin. He creates one of the most unnerving and weirdest characters ever. He uses his full arsenal of both verbal and nonverbal acting to make his character feel so uncomfortable to watch as you never know what he’ll say or do next. I hope he doesn’t get overlooked during awards season as he deserves to be in the conversation for supporting actor.
Both Cassidy and Suljic do brilliant work with the material they are given. It’s a testament to their amazing work as actors that they can pull off Lanthimos’ absurd ideas at such a young age. They feel just as important as the adult characters and don’t fall into the usual trap in horror films where the kids are merely objects with no desirable traits.
The only performance that underwhelms is Alicia Silverstone’s minuscule role as Martin’s mother. She feels out of place and can’t be taken seriously.
While still a slight step down from his previous film, Lanthimos still delivers the goods when it comes to suspense and freshness in this bizarre creep fest. A perfect trifecta of writing, directing, and acting makes this one of the most memorable films of the year.