Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a macabre tale which offers the requisite tension and horror. The film provides a quiet terror and a permanent sense of unease. 

Steven is a successful surgeon who lives a comfortable life with his family. This tranquility is shattered, however, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister…

Writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos and collaborator Efthymis Filippou have created a tale of terror that takes a while to unfold. The first third builds the characters and the sense of uneasiness. The reason for what occurs is revealed in such a matter of fact way that it enhances the surprise and the horror. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is reminiscent of an Edgar Allan Poe story, albeit one rendered in a very contemporary fashion. Lanthimos’ skill here is the ramping of the tension, leading to some awful realisations. The director picks apart the perfect family facade with a sense of glee, merrily ripping through the seams. 

Martin is a most interesting antagonist. The way in which the characters react to him, and indeed the situation says something about the spectrum of human emotion. To a certain extent, Lanthimos makes family go through the stages of grief, with different characters exhibiting the different stages. The Killing of a Sacred Deer will not be a surprise to viewers of the director’s previous work, such as The Lobster. There is some dark humour sprinkled throughout, although the tone is deadpan. 

The score is slightly overbearing in the first third. It is clear what the filmmakers are aiming for, but result is that it can detract from the mood early on. The art direction offers a clinical appearance which fits the tone of the film. Colin Farrell is strong in understated role. Nicole Kidman also very good in subtle role. It is Barry Keoghan who stands out though, delivering a memorable performance. The actor has a promising career ahead. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer engages throughout, even if viewers may wish for some relief. A horror story which lingers. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017, and will be released in cinemas on 3rd November 2017.

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