#REVIEW: “THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Steven (Colin Farrell) is a heart surgeon who lives with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and gifted children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). He has also taken the troubled Martin (Barry Keoghan) under his wing, bringing him gifts and spending time at his home. But Martin’s behaviour becomes increasingly aggressive and delusional, as he connects to a troubling moment in Steven’s past that will lead to devastating consequences in his future.
Much like The Lobster before it, Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer does its very best to keep you unsettled and completely bewildered throughout its running time. The Film opens with footage of an open-heart surgery, and then lingers on this graphically evasive imagery for an agonizing amount of time. It brilliantly sets the stage for the wild and chaotic events that follow, each one more unbelievable than the next. While the trailers may suggest the Plot’s trajectory and Martin’s motivations, they do not properly prepare you for Lanthimos’ and Co-Writer Efthymis Filippou’s take on Greek Tragedy. You can practically hear them laughing at the audience from off-screen, in-between the screeching score that violently assaults your senses at every turn.
Sacred Deer confirms that Lanthimos is either certifiably insane or an alien from a distant planet. How else can you explain the stilted, deadpan and practically robotic dialogue? Or the meaningless dead-serious conversations that are inherently hilarious? The words match the Film’s sterile environments beat for beat, and the escalating tension they provide is practically unbearable. The Film succeeds as a Thriller, but is even better when it becomes a full-blown Horror Show. While I hung on every moment and awful choice these characters made in disbelief, I found that not all of the story elements came together as great as they could have – and the Film’s descent into absurdity in the Final Act is more outrageous than it needed to be. But Lanthimos’ commitment to his otherworldly style of filmmaking is admirable and quite refreshing in this era of franchise driven filmmaking. That alone is enough reason to sit through his deranged vision.
Sacred Deer also confirms Lanthimos’ uncanny ability for putting together a magnificent cast who have no problem diving into whatever preposterous situation he throws them into. Farrell shines as Steven, putting in some of his best work to date. There is more heart and power here than in The Lobster, and his ferocious unpredictability will leave you gasping. Kidman, Cassidy and Suljic are all equally great, but are easily overshadowed by Keoghan’s enigmatic, downright terrifying performance. You immediately know there is something not quite right about Martin, and Keoghan plays into this masterfully – gradually changing the inflections in his voice and how he carries himself. I did not think much of his work in Christopher Nolan’s thrilling Dunkirk, but his chilling work here will scare the living hell out of you. He taps into Lanthimos’ twisted vision more than anyone, and sears Martin into every frame he can.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is horrific and hilarious, but is not for everyone. The dialogue and style are unique to say the least, and will easily irritate many viewers. But if you give into Lanthimos’ madness, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable performance from Keoghan and one of the most boldly original films of the year. I cannot wait to experience this macabre nightmare again.
Elevation Pictures release THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER in select theatres starting Friday, November 3, 2017.