BFI London Film Festival: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic and Alicia Silverstone
Screening at LFF October 12th, 13th, 15th, 2017
In US cinemas October 20th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

Beautifully shot with masterful tension building, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a stunning, high end, art house horror. Director Yorgos Lanthimos carves out a unique cinematic world which falls in line with his previous The Lobster, while boldly standing on its own two feet (or four hooves if we’re going for the deer metaphor).

An allegorical Greek tragedy mixed with psychological horror, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a twisted film. Gory imagery and unsettling dialogue are only the icing on the cake as the story and performances are enough to be rattled by. Steven (Farrell) is a successful cardiac surgeon trying to make amends for the death of a patient by spending time with the deceased’s 16-year-old son Martin (Keoghan). Martin’s behaviour becomes gradually more intrusive as he infiltrates Steven’s family. Sinister intentions become clear as Steven’s children fall mysteriously ill, coinciding with Martin’s prophecy.

One must suspend belief while watching a Yorgos Lanthimos film as he convinces us of the impossible, in a world where conversation is dryer than a desert. Surely any parent would exhaust medical resources to find a cause for their children’s illnesses, rather than rushing to believe in dark forces at work. With doctors claiming symptoms to be caused by psychological trauma, why not consult a psychologist, or even a hypnotist before believing in a 16-year-old’s malicious curse? Well, the parents in The Killing of a Sacred Deer are certainly less than model in a number of ways, allowing the audience to get caught up in their hysteria as much as they do. This is not a film about realism, but rather a film about guilt, justice, consequence, and some very strange daddy issues.

Barry Keoghan, most recently seen in Dunkirk, gives a disturbing performance as Martin. He’s got the perfect balance of innocent looks with a malevolent edge to his personality to fulfill this ominous role. Colin Farrell is now experienced in delivering Lanthimos’ dialogue, and knows exactly how to handle this script. Nicole Kidman as Steven’s wife Anna tones down her movie star status to play her part in this tragedy, grounding the story in a dark realism which sits solidly under the absurdity of the drama.

One of the finest, most artistic psychological horrors I’ve seen, The Killing of a Sacred Deer sits nicely as a tonal companion to the fantastic The Lobster, using similar dry dialogue alongside a string-heavy orchestral score. Unnerving, stylish, darkly calm, Yorgos Lanthimos has once again created a first-rate cinematic accomplishment.


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