THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER murders the Hollywood formula with sinister subtlety
There have been few films over the years that have caused enough frustration and confusion with their plots and presentations, while still offering enough material to leave their audiences wanting more. Films like Inception, and Donnie Darko can leave the viewer puzzled and confused, yet feel intrigued and challenged to learn more through discussions and multiple viewings. Typically, after viewing tantalizing films like these, initial reactions may include feelings of dislike, frustration, and possible resentment toward those involved in the creative process of the film. But, if presented with a degree of relatability to the characters, story, timeline, and/or circumstances, a viewer may feel either a personal connection with the characters or may simply feel challenged to decipher its complexity. For a film to be classified as ‘cult status’, there has to be enough interest in either the characters, story, and/or style and presentation of the film to create a stir in its audience and mass cravings to develop. The fact of whether a film is “good” or “bad” has little to no bearing on its cult status – it is how the film is received by its audience that counts. It is those creative details and components in the film that can determine a films longevity, timelessness, and overall interest in multiple viewings. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is easily one of these films.
Colin Farrell plays Steven Murphy, a surgeon who has decided to mentor a teen, Martin, played by Barry Keoghan. There is no explanation as to how this mentorship originates, other than a possible shared interest in science and discovery. Their relationship feels unnatural, yet that is one of the many plot points that the audience is urged to accept as a component to the overall story. Alicia Silverstone plays Martin’s Mother, who appears supportive yet mildly intimidated by Martin. Bill Camp plays Matthew, Steven’s colleague, who spends his film time in a near-hypnotic fog – physically present, but unaware. On one particular day, Steven invites Martin over to his home for dinner, where he is introduced to Steven’s wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), and his daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy). It is during their meal when Martin reveals his revenge plot against Steven, which includes and affects his family and comes as a shock to Steven. Steven spends the remainder of the film attempting to save his family, while trying to comprehend the motive for Martin’s betrayal.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos introduces a cast of uniquely curt and cold, yet recognizable and relatable characters who appear unaware of standard social norms, nor their accountability in designing their own fates.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer feels like a Kubrick and Wes Anderson collaboration – intensely unusual characters, placed in a vastly picturesque yet subtlety threatening environment.
If you enjoy films like Fatal Attraction and/or Single White Female, One Hour Photo and Cape Fear, which deal with threats against the safety of solitude, solace, sanctuary, morality, civility, privacy, relationships, and family, then The Killing of a Sacred Deer may be a film to consider.