From the director of Dogtooth & The Lobster comes another weird, whacky & wicked concept, this time served to the viewers in the form of a twisted revenge dish. Unravelling its plot with patience, pervaded with an air of mystery & a sense of foreboding, and infused with a warped sense of humour, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a crazy, demented & uncomfortable psychological horror that’s consistently engaging, thoroughly unnerving & fiendishly amusing.
The story follows a cardiac surgeon who secretly develops a deep & empathetic bond with a teenage boy, acting as a father figure to the young kid with whom he shares a past connection. The two even invite each other to meet their respective families and all appears to be going well for the time being. Things, however, take an unexpected turn when one of the surgeon’s kids falls mysteriously ill one day, but if he is to save his family, he must confront a past mistake and make an unthinkable sacrifice.
Co-written & directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is as bizarre as his previous works, and presents the notorious filmmaker once again determined to polarise the audience. Lanthimos takes his time to set up the premise, focusing on establishing the secretive relationship between the surgeon & the young kid without offering any details about the origin of their bond. Nevertheless, an uneasy feeling is detectable in those moments, clearly conveying that something is about to go wrong.
The script packs a simple, straightforward revenge plot but what makes it such an intriguing sit is its peculiar tone & ominous vibe. Character interaction is zany, lines are spoken with deadpan expression, and it brims with a discomforting quality. Its eccentric wit is another element that makes you laugh & feel disgust at the same time. Still, the family’s predicament, no matter how outlandish the cause behind it sounds, is relatable to an extent and the writers do well to retain our interest in the final outcome.
From the technical standpoint, The Killing of a Sacred Deer has a very polished look & feel. Cinematography encapsulates the film with a sinister atmosphere, camera is manoeuvred in a very controlled fashion, and those vacant set pieces populated with minimal characters only add a restless vibe to its images. Its apt use of colour palette & excellent lighting is worth a mention as well. Editing keeps things tense & gripping throughout its 121 minutes runtime, and allows the story to unfold at a steady pace.
Coming to the performances, the film features a faithful cast in Collin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic & Alicia Silverstone, and all of them play their idiosyncratic characters with sincerity. Farrell delivers a measured & deftly layered performance in the role of Steven, the cardiac surgeon. Kidman chips in with a sharp input as his wife. Keoghan plays Martin, the teenage boy Steven takes under his wing, and steals the show with an eerie & grounded showcase. The rest of the cast do well with what they are given.
On an overall scale, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is as fascinating & compelling as it is disturbing & surreal. The film is not without its shortcomings though, for there are moments that linger on longer than required, and few dialogues exist only for their disquieting effect instead of serving the plot but the positives outweigh the negatives by a noticeable margin, plus I found it more accessible & involving than Lanthimos’ last film which for me was dull & sterile. Those who are familiar with the director’s filmography know what to expect. As for the newcomers, they are in for a hellacious ride too. A deranged, haunting & upsetting delight, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is worth your time & money.