Beautifully uneasy family tragedy with an obscure meaning. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) – movie review

They invented tragedy, thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Greek director (Yorgos Lanthimos – DogtoothThe Lobster) gave to American theatres a hell of a drama, filled with horror elements.

Just before we start, let me say that I wanted to review this film in 2017, but since my schedule was really busy I postponed its release to January, 2018. Plus, it wouldn’t have made my TOP 10 Best nor my TOP 10 Worst horror movies of the year…

the killing of a sacred deer 4Regardless, this isn’t your typical middle-of-the-road horror film; rather an extremely polarising cinematic experience (à la Mother! or It Comes at Night) that, however, didn’t disappoint any fan of the extremely unconventional director… well, besides me!

So, what’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer (great title, by the way) all about?

The Killing of a Sacred Deer 1Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) and his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) are two famous doctors who live a wealthy but awkward life with their kids (Bob and Kim). However, when Steven makes friend with Martin (Barry Keoghan, Dunkirk) things go sour for the family: in fact, Bob loses sensitivity in his legs and, soon after, it’s made clear that Martin might be responsible for that.

I’m not delving into the plot any further because, in case you’d like to watch The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I believe the movie works as a mystery, thus the less you know, the better.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer 3An eerie, almost annoying soundtrack and a beautiful cinematography enhance this mystery aspect of Lanthimos’ film: the Greek filmmaker proved once again to be a master behind the camera, with a movie that looks visually stunning, all the while being highly uncomfortable despite the absence of physical violence and gore.

The camera-work in The Killing of a Sacred Deer is able, by itself, to build up tension and bring shivers down the viewer’s spine.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer 2.pngYet, the acting is top-notch for the most part: in their key roles, Barry Keoghan and Nicole Kidman gave astounding performances – Keoghan is subtly terrifying and you feel awkward just looking at him; Kidman shines as she rarely did in her incredible career and the viewer feels for her in every scene. On the other hand, I couldn’t get past Colin Farrell’s accent (I mean, I still can’t understand what kind of accent he was going for) and I found the two kids to be extremely unpleasant. Maybe they were supposed to be portrayed that way, but I honestly didn’t care for them at all.

As you could see from the previous paragraphs, I have little to complain about the technical features of The Killing of a Sacred Deer – I keep writing down the title because I think it’s such a cool title… sorry, just sayin’.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the story and the meaning of the movie, I simply didn’t get it, it literally flew over my head.

It might just be me, being stupid, but I found the movie extremely obscure. I usually love art-house horror films and, if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you know I often appreciate complicated movies which require multiple views to be fully understood.

However, despite watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer twice, the only way I could get what was going on with the movie was to read analyses and explanations of its meaning. (I’m going to link them here in case you’re interested – here and here)

Here’s the thing for me: a movie that requires multiple viewings to be fully appreciated and understood, often shows to be clever and that the director respects the audience, instead of spoon-feeding moviegoers with exposition scenes and dumb or lazy writing. Nevertheless, when you can’t understand a movie without relying on external sources, the filmmakers simply didn’t deliver.

For all the reasons mentioned above, I really wanted to love Lanthimos’ film but I ended up being unsatisfied by it, therefore my final grade is as it follows:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer                      6.5/10


Again, 6.5 is not a bad grade and it comes from the fact that you can’t call a movie bad if the technical features are astounding. However, the best way to describe Lanthimos’ movie would be ‘style over content’.

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imdb In two days, my review will be also available at IMDb – The Killing of a Sacred Deer