The Killing of a Sacred Deer follows a heart surgeon (Colin Farrell) whose friendship with a mysterious young man (Barry Keoghan) spirals out of control. As truths reveal themselves, the boy's morbid motivations become disturbingly clear, forcing a choice upon the surgeon over the very lives of his family.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer Review
Despite a directorial feature-length filmography dating back to 2005, I am only familiar with Yorgos Lanthimos more recent works, in particular The Lobster and today's featured review. His cinematic niche reminds me of a sadistic/sociopathic Wes Anderson, with an incredibly dry and awkward approach that lends itself to black humor, dark drama and unsettling, subdued suspense. The dialogue tends to have this inhuman, disjointed, robotic nature to it that is difficult to shake as a viewer. It makes The Lobster an uncomfortable piece of cinema, but makes Sacred Deer all the more chilling.
Using this disconnected approach to character interaction, we get an unusual and unique take on the thriller genre. The suspense and disturbing nature of the material is so snail-paced and subtle that it almost doesn't categorize as thriller or horror, but its content is arguably too strong for most dramas of a similar ilk.
The performance of Keoghan is one of the most successful I've seen in a while. It is so realistic and natural that I worry he's in danger of being typecasted as a sociopathic evil incarnate of humanity. Farrell falls in line with his drab delivery akin to The Lobster, while Nicole Kidman (as the wife/mother) brings her usual A-game that has become exponentially more apparent the more indie films she enters. But even these performances take some warming up to.
This film isn't directed, scripted or acted by any conventional means. Though The Lobster is nothing like this film in content, I would almost recommend seeing it first to get an idea of Lanthimos' niche style. It helped me in pressing forward as my mind adjusted to the unsettling awkwardness of it all. Still, it took some time in Sacred Deer to be able to delve into the story and characters with the way everything is given with a bland, monotone delivery, both in performance and cinematography.
But eventually the morbid beauty of this method is made clear as the exponentially disturbing nature of each conversation is only heightened and impressed on the viewer to the point that it has a physical reaction. The film brings new meaning to slow-burner and features an ending that made me grit my teeth at the motif of it all, but it's something I wouldn't take back for enduring. Like We Need to Talk About Kevin, this story lingers and infects your mind, all the while never wanting to go near it again. To speak to that further, I have no interest in seeing either film again, but I'd much sooner recommend Sacred Deer to the right person willing to experience something different at the expense of their own sanity.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 6/10
Film Quality: 7/10