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The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Movie Review

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

You sometimes come across a film so depraved and nihilistic, one wonders who the audience for it is. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an example of this, yet because it falls under the guise of an “arthouse picture”, it magically escapes the criticisms that would befall some thriller released in the so-called dog days of January. Through two hours, the viewer is pummeled with a story about horrible people doing terrible things and then having awful things happen to themselves. It is not merely the subject matter that is bothersome, but also the execution. Yorgos Lanthimos seems to have a rather bleak view of the world and that manifests quite clearly in The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Through careful tracking shots and camera trickery, there’s a definite want to emulate the works of Stanley Kubrick. Yet Kubrick had the ability to somehow make one feel something, even towards otherwise unsympathetic characters. That touch is non-existent here. Nobody on screen is compelling enough to grab one’s attention and a large fault comes from the dialogue. The style of writing is stilted with everyone speaking in the same dull tones. Lanthimos appears to be directing his actors to be as emotionless as possible, almost appearing to want the audience to feel the same uncaring way. In the middle, Colin Farrell’s frustrated surgeon is finally allowed to have some human emotion, but it might be too little, too late.

The worst character is Farrell’s obsessive stalker, played by Barry Keoghan. He attempts to be creepy, but is merely irritating. Even more baffling is Raffey Cassidy’s performance as the daughter. She showed plenty of spunk as the optimistic robot in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland and yet she somehow is far more robotic in Sacred Deer than when she played an actual android. Lanthimos frequently hits the audience with images that are merely shocking for the sake of it, but what is the point? Is he saying people are inherently terrible and deserve the worst punishments? One could argue these characters are truly despicable, but it doesn’t explain the young son being punished, as he is in no way linked to his parents’ and sister’s faults.

What is Lanthimos saying? That will be the eternal question as most leave the screening, stroking their chins and pondering. He appears to be saying that the world is horrible and we all deserve the worst punishments for minor offenses. Really, the only person at fault is Farrell for making one idiotic decision after another and placating his stalker for so long. Lanthimos delights in bizarre scenes, like a strange cameo from Alicia Silverstone. However, these moments of weirdness lack the strong emotion that benefit works of superior directors. When David Lynch delved into the world’s offbeat weirdness, he said so much. Lanthimos doesn’t appear to be saying much of anything.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer just wants to tell the audience that life stinks, so why bother? It’s not merely that the dialogue is annoyingly stilted and the characters lack any real depth and emotion. The problem is the nihilistic tone that soaks over the entire film. This is the sort of movie that pushes one to explore more sweet natured and good hearted fare, much as it may displease Mr. Lanthimos to read that. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is sadistic and depraved, with little commentary beyond that. Yorgos Lanthimos probably enjoyed himself a lot while making this film, but the content seems to reveal himself as a real party pooper.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison