The Killing of a Sacred Deer-2017
Synopsis: Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.
As we enter into the new year we can look back at 2017 as the year of the art-house, psychological horror film. Movies like Mother, It Comes at Night, and Get Out have dominated the horror conversation. A more liberal idea as to what constitutes a horror movie has entered us into a whole new era. I welcome this open-mindedness, as I feel it helps grow the genre. Horror films have even started to see the fruits of their labor at main-stream award ceremonies at a much higher rate than ever before.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, belongs in the discussion with these aforementioned films. Based loosely on the Greek play, Iphigenia in Aulis, Sacred Deer tells the story of a successful cardiologist named Steven, played by Colin Ferrell. Steven has an unusual relationship with a very troubled, teen boy named Martin, played by fellow Irish actor Barry Keoghan. As the friendship deepens, we come to learn that Martin holds Steven accountable for the death of his father. It appears that years ago when Steven was a heavy drinker, he performed heart surgery on Martin’s father, who sadly did not survive.
Seeking retribution for the doctor’s actions, Martin offers a proposition to Steven. Kill a member of your immediate family now, or your 2 children, and wife will all die a slow and mysterious death. Steven ignores these threats, and attempts to distance himself from the troubled teen. As fate would have it however, Stevens’s son, and daughter slowly start falling apart just as Martin described they would. As a man of science, Steven can not bring himself to believe in these supernatural happenings. He and his wife, played by Nicole Kidman seek medical treatment for the children. None of Steven’s physician cohorts can seem to find anything medically wrong with the children via x-ray and MRI, and despite the “A-ok” from an increasing number of specialists, the children still continue to deteriorate. Steven can’t come to grips with his inability to help his children. The mysterious illness plaguing his most precious loved ones, begins to tear apart the Doctor’s normally unbreakable facade. Ultimately, Steven and his wife must come to a decision, and make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the rest of the family.
The actor performances are intentionally bland, and robotic throughout the first act. This let me know that I was in for something I had probably never seen before as far as style goes. It was different for sure. Little details to the set design drove me crazy, and made me ask questions like, “Why the hell are all the ceiling fans always on full blast in the first half of the movie, and not running at all in the 2nd half of the movie?” As the plot slowly builds into the twisted, freak show that is Sacred Deer, so does the emotion from the characters. Lanthimos’ Kubrick like style, paired with an over the top musical score, really drives the oddness of this film. Sacred Deer had me guessing the whole time, and most certainly had me on the edge of my seat. It also managed to throw in some dark humor as well, much to my delight. Barry Keoghan’s performance as Martin, is one to behold, and I look forward to seeing him as the antagonist in future projects. I think he can really knock evil material out of the park.
This is not your typical gore fest, slasher film like I stated earlier. However, there is enough horrific imagery, and sequence to account for a pretty well made addition to the 2017 horror collection. If you liked Mother, and other really weird films, you’ll probably dig this one as well. I rate Killing of a Sacred Deer 8 out of 10 stars overall.