Reuniting after their 2015 brilliant absurdist dark comedy The Lobster, the latest collaboration for Colin Farrell and director Yorgos Lanthimos is a psychological horror about decisions and consequences.
In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which arrives on Blu-ray and Digital Copy today courtesy of Elevation Pictures, Farrell plays Dr. Steven Murphy, a cardiothoracic surgeon whose life is as sterile as the hospital he works in. There is a cold directness to his interactions with both his colleagues and his children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). This mechanical approach also extends to the bedroom as Steven and his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) only have sex after she assumes the position of someone under “general anesthetic.”
For someone whose life seems to be so structured, Steven is not without his fair share of secrets. One of which is his frequent meetings with a teenager named Martin (Barry Keoghan). Connected to the young man’s past, Steven assumes a big brother style role in Martin’s life. Though it becomes increasingly clear that Martin and his widowed mother (Alicia Silverstone) each want him to play a bigger role in their lives.
Shortly after introducing Martin to his family, Steven notices that Martin is more impatient and demanding, appearing at the places the surgeon frequents more often. It is only when Kim and Bob are stricken with an mysterious illness that Martin’s true motives present themselves. Warning Steven that there are more stages of the sickness to come – including loss of appetite and bleeding from the eyes – Martin informs him that there is only one way to cure his ailing children.
Of course, the remedy is one that will force Steven to make a decision that will not only impact his family, but teach him that every action, even ones from the past, have grave consequences.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer may not be as disturbing as Dogtooth, or as amusing as The Lobster, though Lanthimos does sprinkle in some of his trademark dark humour, but the film is another strong addition to his canon. Unveiling its horror aspects slowly, the film succeeds in unnerving the audience as they are kept slightly off-kilter until the very end.
As with all of Lanthimos’ films, not everyone will appreciate the director’s challenging and stylized approach. However, this film once again shows that Lanthimos is one of the most versatile and thrilling filmmakers working today. He manages to evoke a sense of dread even through the simplest of framing technique. Frequently zooming out from tight close-ups, Lanthimos shows how small Steven’s world has become in the face of dark forces beyond his control.
The one downside to the Blu-ray is that it comes without any special features. If there was ever a film where you would want to hear the director talk about the psychology of the film, or rave about strong performances by Farrell, Kidman and Keoghan, it is here. Regardless, the lack of extras should not stop you from giving this unnerving tale a spin. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an effective slow burn horror film that will fester in one’s mind long after the film ends.