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Fantastic Fest Review: "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" (2017)

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

The official one-sheet theatrical poster for "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."

The official one-sheet theatrical poster for "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."

Balancing the Universe One Stage at a Time

From the shockingly absurd mind of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer continues the dark and awkward brilliance only Lanthimos is capable of tapping into and executing to a satisfying, memorable, and unbelievably candid extent.

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a successful surgeon that spends a little too much time with the son of a patient who passed away on Steven’s operating table. This 16-year-old young man named Martin (Barry Keoghan) forcefully injects himself into the lives of Steven, his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy), and son Bob (Sunny Suljic). A tragic event throws the Murphy family into an accelerated downward spiral, which forces Steven to make a devastating decision no father or husband should have to make all while Martin seemingly has full control of the life-threatening situation.

Don’t walk into The Killing of a Sacred Deer expecting all of your questions to be answered. The strange occurrence that plagues the Murphy family is never explained in full with little reason for transpiring other than karmic justice, but that doesn’t take away from the unique aspects of the film. Like The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer dives headfirst into strikingly unusual yet undeniably memorable dialogue revolving around the water-resistance and preferable type of band for a watch, the desired amount of body hair, Steven’s clean-nice-beautiful hands, borrowing lost mp3 players, and proudly boasting about your daughter starting her menstruation cycle among many other awkward things. Lanthimos manages to be a connoisseur of naturally unnatural human behavior.

The cinematography is practically stalker-esque as it trails behind the characters on-screen when they’re walking the dog or strolling through abandoned hospital corridors, but is entirely within their personal bubble during intimate conversations. Meanwhile, the score utilizes shrill noises as harsh, overbearing music choosing to lurk in the background with creeping and haunting string arrangements and the angry pounding of piano keys.

Barry Keoghan as Martin in "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."

Barry Keoghan as Martin in "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."

The cast is filled to the brim with performances that are typically devoid of standard human emotions, but the quirky subject matter along with peculiar behavior and noticeably monotone line deliveries make The Killing of a Sacred Deer something only Yorgos Lanthimos could concoct. Anna’s general anesthetic sequence shines a disturbing light on her relationship with Steven and Kidman’s devotion to the craft is admirably bizarre. Barry Keoghan tends to be sleazy enough to make your skin crawl, similar to Paul Dano’s performance in Prisoners, but with an even bigger influence on manipulating those around him and piercing the audience with his unsettling stare. Colin Farrell is the most extraordinary as his rage-fueled force-feeding of cinnamon donuts to Bob, epic kitchen meltdown to search for virgin pubic hair, and his sorrowful breakdown make Farrell a force to be reckoned with on-screen. Farrell has been more memorable in the two films he’s done with Lanthimos than anything else he’s done in years.

Its operatic open heart surgery opening screams from the rooftops that The Killing of a Sacred Deer will be unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. Visually and structurally unnerving with dialogue that has absolutely no filter and sickeningly amusing undertones, The Killing of a Sacred Deer often leaves you speechless with so many feelings that dig deeper than Alicia Silverstone’s unbelievable finger sucking and deep-throating.

© 2017 Chris Sawin