The Killing Of A Sacred Deer: A Twisted Contemporary Greek Tragedy

Written by Emily Jones

Known as one of 2017’s strangest movies, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is a psychological thriller directed by famed director Yorgos Lanthimos. Known for his stilted characters featuring robotic deliveries, Lanthomo’s latest movie, in fact, features a series of transactional relationships and conversations between characters which emphasize its peculiarity. Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone and Bill Camp, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is a surreal movie experience that effortlessly defies any rational explanations right from its beginning. Recently released, the movie is currently available for viewing on the Chili website.

The movie is based on the Greek story of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae who paid the terrible price his family must pay once it is discovered that he killed a deer, precious to the goddess Artemis. As payment for his killing, Artemis demands that Agamemnon sacrifice one of his children, either his daughter Iphigenia or son Orestes, in her honor. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer portrays this Greek tragedy in Cincinnati, where heart surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) is confronted by Martin (Barry Keoghan) who lost his father during one of Steven’s surgeries. A few years after his father’s passing and now a teenager, Martin seeks revenge and issues a chilling ultimatum. He threatens that Steven must choose one of his family members to die so that he can amend Martin’s father’s death. If Steven refuses to do so, each of his family members will suddenly diefrom a mysterious illness. Steven must, therefore, make a decision as his family members are already falling in, and in doing so his family’s craven, self-centered and brutal cores are revealed.

While this movie features little blood, very few scenes of violence and a courteous and gentle villain, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer still manages to be completely and viscerally terrifying. The movie greatly focuses on a person’s sense of responsibility and the great lengths they may go about to try not being held accountable for their mistakes. It focuses on how a person’s actions and decisions contribute to where they find themselves in life and the cowardly sense of protecting their self and their self-image. While Steven refuses to accept Martin’s ultimatum and while his family falls ill, he continues to search for an alternate solution, denying what is happening around him. What makes the movie particularly strange and disturbing is also the interactions between Stevens family members. The Murphy family dynamics are mostly a series of transactions and exchanges. Bob and Kim have assigned chores, and almost all of their interactions with their parents have to do with whether or not they’ve done them and Kim (Nicole Kidman) learns her brother is in the hospital when she told she’ll have to now water his plants. Transactions are in fact what dominate the entire storyline, for the death of one of his family members, Martin demands the death of one of Steven’s.

With its peculiar characters, an interesting and somewhat historic storyline The Killing Of A Sacred Deer should certainly be among the list of must-see movies of the year. This psychological thriller explores the depths of family interactions and the toll the burden of responsibility can take on a person.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Year: 2017
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Alicia Silverstone, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic

Written by Jessica Peña

It’s not often enough a film will come around that will leave you in awe, laughing, cringing, and downright terrified. Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ will find you in these states and will claw at your psyche well after its ending credits. It carries very dark comedic tones and chilling subjects. The film examines the absence of any virtue and becomes one of the most unsettling and gratifying cinematic experiences of the year.

Dr. Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who lives a comfortable and pristine suburban life with his wife (Nicole Kidman), son (Sunny Suljic), and teenage daughter (Raffey Cassidy). It becomes known that he’s struggled with an alcohol problem in the past, leading to the death of a man on his operating table. Here’s where things get a little interesting. Held with a guilt, Stephen meets Martin (Barry Keoghan), the deceased patient’s 16 year old son. Martin begins to spend time with Stephen over the course of a few months. They get to know each other a little through meeting each other’s families, dinner visits, and ‘too close for comfort’ conversations. Martin tries endlessly to have Stephen in his life. There comes a point where Martin begins to cross the line on what he says to Stephen, making his family uncomfortable, and so Stephen ends all forms of communication with Martin. The youngest child, Bob, suddenly loses all feeling and mobility in his legs, causing Stephen and his wife to rush him to the hospital.

With no scientific or realistic explanation, the family is stumped. Martin shows up and asks Stephen for ten minutes of his time. Reluctantly, Stephen agrees. This is where Martin abruptly continues his ominous front. He tells Stephen to choose which of his loved ones to kill. If no decision is made within a timely manner, they will die one by one. First, they will lose function of their legs. Then, they will lose their appetite. Finally, they will begin to bleed from the eyes before their eventual death. Martin delivers this line so simply and so poised that we begin to wonder if he is the Devil incarnate. Martin’s vendetta becomes clear and Stephen’s world gets turned upside down. This is where ‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ shoots its cold hearted madness through our soul.

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We watch misfortune strike this family and Stephen almost doesn’t know what to make of it all. Something that Lanthimos nods to is his recent film ‘The Lobster,’ where dialogue and normal human reaction is made to appear desolate. His characters are so very modern but there is a certain way of speech that will transport us deeper into the film, but will also bother us. In many instances, people would not react the way that these characters act. It throws a person off. Farrell and Kidman give exceptional performances that aren’t over the top, but succeed in helping such an eerie script. Beside Lanthimos’ excellent direction, Keoghan as Martin is what terrifies us the most. The young Dublin-born actor makes it seem so effortless in presenting this dead-eyed character. It’s not explained where Martin gains this supernatural power to bestow onto Stephen’s life. Another thing Lanthimos enjoys is presenting an automatic acceptance that this is just how things are. We do not question it and we do not argue. The notion of sacrificial trial, justice, and human nature is all challenged through Martin’s menacing proclamation. ‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ looks to rattle us and it does a fine job at it. The first shot we see is a close up of an open heart surgery to the sound of jarring classical opera music. Be careful in choosing to see a film so unconventional and Earth-altering.

The gratification comes to us through its visual nightmare-like world. From slow pans to long wide shots, the minimalist cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis captures the rarity of the film entirely. Lanthimos completely throws us into this very dark and ethereal atmosphere. It can’t be measured just how much discomfort this film will make you feel. The soundtrack itself thickens tension and raises heart rates. Even the melody of the Christmas tune, “Carol of the Bells,” becomes something haunting when we remember what we’re sitting through. Accordionist Janne Rattya lends her horrifying “De Profundis” to the film, which sets the tone of no hope for Stephen’s family. With its devastating Greek tragedy theme, all the components of sound and visuals will meet in the middle where it pains us the most.

Sincerely noted, this film won’t pan too nicely to a lot of people. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers that stop at nothing to wreak havoc, this may be for you. Dark comedy makes a bigger occurrence in the film than one would think. We find ourselves laughing at something (that was probably meant to be taken very seriously in context) and then immediately feeling uneasy again. It’s quite a refreshment, honestly. It makes the film so distinct, just how we like it. If you’re alright with welcoming bizarre behavior, insane metaphors, and uneasy scripts, be my guest. We need more films that aren’t afraid to terrify us in such a way. Yorgos Lanthimos continues to prove himself as an uncanny heavyweight among directors and this film, as strange as it was, serves to break barriers.

‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ does not know forgiveness. It squeezes your senses until you can longer withstand the agony. It surprises you with its antics and decisions. It is heart-wrenching and will not stray away from you. It is certainly a sinister experience that won’t leave your thoughts even days after its viewing. You find yourself leaving the theater puzzled, disgusted, stunned, and most of all, unsettled to the core. Lanthimos gives us one of the most unnerving and masterful pieces of art in recent cinematic times.

Jessica’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Watch This Space: 6th – 12th November

Every Monday we will be recommending films that are on TV that week, films playing at the cinema, and also remind you of those brilliant films hiding on streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and possibly in your own collection.

In Cinemas

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest directorial effort has a limited release here in the UK, but we highly recommend you seeking out a screening near you if possible. Those of you who enjoyed Lanthimos’ ‘The Lobster’, which also starred Colin Farrell, are in for a treat with his latest film. You can read our full review later this week! 

Murder on the Orient Express: Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars in the latest adaption of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, but just how well does Branagh cope as both director and main star of the film? Our full verdict arrives on our site later this week (and on time, might we add!)

On TV

Monday

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (9pm, SYFY): Angelina Jolie grabs a pair of pistols and raids some tombs in this first attempt to bring beloved video game character, Lara Croft, to the big screen. In her first silver screen outing, Lara is goes up against super secret societ, the Illuminati, in a race to find an ancient artifact that possesses the ability to control time. All in all, it’s not a bad effort  from all involved and it’s a good excuse to watch Jolie kick some ass, and she’s joined by Daniel Craig and Iain Glen. It might be worth revisiting this in preparation for the upcoming reboot, which will star Alicia Vikander in the titular role.

The Conjuring 2 (6:40pm, Sky Cinema): James Wan’s sequel to his transformative paranormal horror ‘The Conjuring’ returns charming couple Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the cunning Ed and Lorraine Warren to their fearless pursuit of malevolent spirits terrorizing helpless families. Based around the true story of the Enfield haunting, round two continues Wan’s masterful building of tension and careful use of jump scares that free your attention to engage with the characters and nightmarish imagery that will have you hooked to this chilling case on Monday night.

Tuesday

Bridesmaids (9pm, ITV2): “It’s coming out of me like lava” depicts an unforgettable Melissa McCarthy scene that provides relentless laughter in Paul Feig’s comedy of 2011. Comedic starlet’s Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Bryne and a trifle more deliver stomach-aching hilarity with hyperbolic entertainment by simply following a group of women planning their friend’s wedding. Timeless fun hemmed with realistic dilemmas we can all connect to carries this giggle-fest into the hall of fame that’s bound to brighten anybody’s Tuesday evening.

Akira (11:30pm, SYFY): Hard to believe that ‘Akira’ first came out way back in 1988, and whilst hailed amongst anime fans as one of the best anime films ever made, the masses might not quite realise just how influential this film was and continues to be. Set in the dystopian “Neo-Tokyo”, the story focuses on a biker gang member who is turned into a rampaging psychopath by a shady military project. Massively ahead of its time and with visuals that are utterly iconic, ‘Akira’ is not just an anime masterpiece, but a masterpiece of modern cinema. For fans of futuristic sci-fi and dsytopian stories, this is an absolute must-watch, and a great entry point for anime as well.

Superbad (10:15pm, Sky Cinema Comedy): Arguably one of the best comedies of in recent years, ‘Superbad’ still entertains with every viewing, whether it’s your first or your 100th time. 10 years since it’s release, ‘Superbad’ and some of it’s iconic lines are still referenced today, which just demonstrates how loved it is. Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are 3 awkward high school friends who plan to end their high school senior year on a high by actually getting themselves invited to a party. With appearances from Emma Ston, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Joe Lo Truglio

Wednesday

The Inbetweeners Movie (9pm, E4): The brilliantly hilarious ‘The Inbetweeners’ ran on Channel 4 from 2008 – 2011 and followed Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil and their hapless journey through their teenage years. There’s not a person I didn’t know at school that didn’t watch this show, so when a film was released in 2011 everyone clambered to see the four awkward teenagers head on their lads holiday to Malia. Hilarity ensues from the the second it starts and the laughs keep coming right up until the credits begin to roll. Prepare to cringe like you’ve never cringed before, learn some iconic dance moves, and witness the ‘Pussy Patrol’ in action. Wednesday night sorted!

Moana (6:10pm, Sky Cinema Disney): When I was a young boy, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Lion King’ were the big movies that were released by Disney. I loved them, I bought the soundtracks on cassette and played them over and over. Years went past and I never really felt same way about the other Disney releases, especially during their lull in the 00’s. So when I heard that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was involved in a new Disney animation by Ron Clements and John Musker, the writers of ‘Aladdin’, I became very excited. The result is the magnificent ‘Moana’. The film is packed with memorable songs and funny characters. ‘Moana’ is about a girl who travels across the ocean to save her island and people. This isn’t just an animation for kids, this is an animation for adults as well. It’s all truly beautiful. This is an instant classic. Enjoy.

Thursday

X-Men (7pm, Film4)This Bryan Singer film, along with ‘Blade’, could easily be the ones responsible for the current regeneration of the superhero / comic-book movie. Singer and Marvel brought a fresh look to a genre long since stale with exciting characters, cutting edge special effects and a cast of top name stars to deliver fun, fast and dazzling action for a franchise backed up with an extensive source material. Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen lead the younger heroes and villains like Hugh Jackman (before he became the franchise poster boy), Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Ray Park and Rebecca Romijn to name but a few. And what is also refreshing is how simple and minimal it is before comic book movies aimed to be bigger, better and louder each year. One of the original and best CBMs.

X-Men 2 (9pm, Film4)Bryan Singer brings back everything from the original ‘X-Men’ for this story of struggling to be accepted by society, feeling judged by others and adjusting to  brave new world; something many people can relate to which adds a big chunk of humanity, depth and emotion to our fictional heroes and villains on their journey. For that reason, it’s a great sequel that expands as a sequel should do on the original, with the original cast returning as well as new faces like Alan Cumming, Kelly Hu and Brian Cox. While it does seem to drag it’s heels a little in telling an extensive story, it never-the-less delivers all you want from an ‘X-Men’ movie and sets up far more to come.

The Invention Of Lying (10pm SyFy)British comedy powerhouse Ricky Gervais writes and directs his debut film in an attempt to conquer America with co-stars such as Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey and Louis C.K in a world where lying does not exist until Gervais invents the first one and his life changes forever.  After the thin veil of morality is played out. the film runs thin with many silly gags and jokes that are meant to be funny because no-one can lie, so all the sexual insults and put downs delivered dead-pan are meant to be witty, but they’re not. It’s just an excuse to throw as many jokes in as possible to offend and shock the audience with black comedy. It’s all too obvious and lazy for someone like Ricky Gervais to pen, and it’s not his best material at all. Stick to the stand-up and docu-soaps as they are where his true talent lies.

Friday

Dredd (11pm, Film4)This film deserves all the praise it gets, primarily for the fact it took risks. It aimed for an R / 18 rating to deliver brutal action, wonderfully authentic violence and adult themes where each bullet, punch and slice can be felt by us without catering to kids. With a tight plot that doesn’t require much thought (basically a Western take on ‘The Raid: Redemption’), Karl Urban erases Sylvester Stallone from memory as Judge Dredd in this stylish and visually grim looking film that harkens back to the unrestrained might of the 90s where directors weren’t afraid to lay down the R / 18 rating for 98mins of pure gold. Dredd dispenses justice as only Dredd can, taking on drug baron MaMa (Lena Headey) in a dangerous tower-block with his fellow Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). One way in, no way out. It’s a simple as that. And we STILL don’t have a sequel, and ‘Pitch Perfect’ has two. Sort it out Hollywood.

Silver Linings Playbook (12:05am, C4): In David O. Russell’s comedy-drama, Bradley Cooper is Pat Solatano, a man who vows effortlessly to regain his relationship with his estranged wife, who’s put a restraining order on him for nearly beating a man to death after getting caught cheating. Through his move back home with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), Pat meets a widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the sister of one of his buddy’s girlfriend. Tiffany approaches Pat casually with intercourse, but Pat insists he’s got his eyes set on rekindling his marriage. Tiffany then compromises to help him get her back if he will be her partner in an upcoming dance competition. Cooper and Lawrence share undeniable chemistry in their performances. Emotions begin to run high and feelings unfold as ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ tempts our charming side and the ability to take a gamble on romantic comedy love.

Iron Man 2 (8pm, E4): The most unfairly maligned of all the MCU films, in my opinion – Iron Man 2 is bags of fun with a great cast. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff features prominently (definitely a bonus for me) and the film also stars Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke and Sam Bloomin’ Rockwell. The Iron Man films have never been my favourite of the MCU but it’s mystifying to me that people prefer IM3 to this. I like that Romanoff is given her own backstory with Tony Stark (as she is with Steve Rogers in Winter Soldier), which makes her choice of who to side with in Civil War all the more interesting. Like many others, I am crying out for Black Widow to have her own film. Anyway, I like Iron Man 2 (one of my many wrong MCU opinions) and Sam Rockwell is always worth your time. Give it another chance.

A huge thank you to contributors this week:  Chris Gelderd, Jessica PeñaJo CraigFiona Underhill, Dave Curtis, Sarah Buddery

 

Eerie First Trailer For A24’s ‘The Killing Of A Sacred Deer’ Is Here!

“A teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family take an unexpected turn.”

Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, and Alicia Silverstone
Release Date: 17th November 2017