Killing A Sacred Deer

Deadpan humour meets full-blooded horror in Yorgos Lanthimos’s unsettling theater about a surgeon’s friendship with a teenage boy


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‘A tale of mythical, organized revenge’: Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in The Killing des a spiritual Deer. Photograph: Alamy
‘A tale des mythical, organized revenge’: Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in The Killing of a sacred Deer. Photograph: Alamy

“That critical momente we both knew would come someday – right here it is…” After ns jet-black society satire von Dogtooth, ns role-playing bereavement des Alps und the quasi-sci-fi tragicomedy of The Lobster, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos to adjust his sights on other altogether an ext unsettling. Segueing seamlessly from ns theatre von absurdity kommen sie cruelty, he gift a tale von mythical, systematic revenge that starts with bei ironic chuckle and moves inexorably towards a silent scream.

Du schaust: Killing a sacred deer

Taking the titular theme from ns myth von Iphigenia, The Killing des a sacred Deer zu sein a wrathful tale des retribution und responsibility transposed from die stages des ancient greece to ns screens von 21st-century cinema. On one level the a commonly arch dramatic conundrum, laced v Lanthimos’s trademark off-kilter artifice and deadpan humour. Top top another, the a Saw movie weil das the arthouse crowd, in increasingly sickening hunger game driven by bei inflexible moral imperative, v a whiff von medical misadventure.

Colin Farrell, star of The Lobster, plays heart surgeon steven Murphy – wealthy, slightly world-weary and too fond des a drink. Bei arresting opening bild of a pulsating heart procedure ends v surgical gloves being dumped in the trash, symbolically removed blood from ns surgeon’s hands – zum now. Stephen lives in a grand, cavernous home with his wife, anna (Nicole Kidman, Farrell’s co-star an The Beguiled), daughter kim (Raffey Cassidy), und younger son bob (Sunny Suljic). Their lives are materially rich, yet emptiness prevails. Maybe that’s what drives steven to meet hoch with martin (Barry Keoghan), a callow youth whose partnership with ns surgeon zu sein suspiciously unclear.

At times, martin resembles a young Norman Bates, wide-eyed and unknowingly dangerousFor a while, dinge progress bei familiar alienated fashion. Ns dialogue is theatrically mundane – discussions of watchstraps, lemon cake and menstruation, delivered in the monochromatic rhythms von a trance state. “General anaesthetic?” asks Anna, prior to draping herself across ns bed in a comatose pose, feigning unconsciousness for her husband’s ritual pleasure.

Gradually, martin inveigles his method into this picture-perfect family life, visiting the house, impressing ns teenage daughter. Later, stephen meets Martin’s tragically needy mum (a spicy cameo von Alicia Silverstone), that tells er he has “beautiful hands”, und insists pathetically that “I won’t let freundin leave till you’ve tried my tart!” die line it s okay a giggle, but the laughter rings hollow. Slowly, what when seemed funny starts kommen sie become weirdly frightening.

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Lanthimos’s consistent cinematographer, Thimios Bakatakis, accentuates die sense von dread together his cameras creep and crawl with hospital corridors, like ns lurking spirits in The Shining – every low-angle prowls und ghostly high glides. Thunderous music cues (including bursts of Ligeti) crank up die cracked tone, ominous und screechy. As schwarz comedy gives means to cool guignol, we space reminded des the tortured gamings that michael Haneke when played top top his bürgerlich protagonists and audiences. There are echoes, too, of The Exorcist as youngsters succumb kommen sie mystery illnesses, leaving doctors pontificating pointlessly about psychosomatic symptoms in state-of-the-art hospitals.

Observing that all zu sein Martin, brilliantly played von Keoghan to combine the awkwardness von youth with ns suggestion des terrible power. Punkt times, martin resembles a young Norman Bates, wide-eyed und unknowingly dangerous. Elsewhere, he seems prefer a dorky descendant des Ezra Miller’s eponymous teen in We Need to Talk about Kevin, ns bearer des projected parental guilt. Throughout, Lanthimos und regular co-writer Efthymis Filippou leave us tantalisingly unsure as zu whether this intense young man is the architect or messenger von forces beyond our ken. Wie man awful truths space revealed, they room recited like cursed verse, conjuring a fable-like sense von fate, out von step with modern-day concepts von choice.


It’s the clash bolzen the ancient und the modern, die farcical and the fearsome, which provides The Killing of a spiritual Deer the edge. While the setting might seem at erste more “realistic” than the worlds of Lanthimos’s vault films, any type of sense of familiarity just accentuates die eeriness des the otherworldly aspects (Rosemary’s Baby writer Ira Levin would have appreciated ns juxtaposition). Similarly, die battle between ice-cool irony and full-blooded horror continues to be perpetually unresolved, leaving die audience squirming with hesitation when things turn nasty.

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Viewers möchte doubtless oase their own vastly differing reactions zu this bizarre drama. Farrell has said that making the film left er “fucking depressed”; others might be otherwise amused or appalled. I veered betwee being impressed, alarmed, confused and creeped-out. That, ich suspect, would make Lanthimos laugh.