FilmReview

Review: In ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ Revenge Runs Deep

Natalie Benoit ‘21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

What happens when you mix the picture perfect family, a surgeon’s mistake, and a vengeful teenager with his own interpretation of justice? If your answer is Yorgos Lanthimos’s thriller, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, then you’re right. Actor Colin Farrell stars in Lanthimos’s latest tale, after the pair previously worked together in the 2015 abstract movie, The Lobster. This newest A24 film will leave fans suspenseful up until the very last second.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer explores the strange friendship between a surgeon and the son of a former patient who had died under the knife. As ominous music emerges and eerie close-ups appear, you’ll get that gut feeling that something isn’t right.

Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Photo Credit: A24.

From the get-go, audience members are thrust into a metaphor when the opening scene shows a bloody, beating heart. While this introduction to the movie can have several meanings, it is likely associated with Colin Farrell’s character Steven Murphy. Steven is a heart surgeon married to Anna (Nicole Kidman), an ophthalmologist, who portrays the ideal upper-middle class family with their two well-behaved children– teenager Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and her younger brother, Bob (Sunny Siljic). The Murphy family lives in an unidentified American city, and while their awkward, monotone behaviors can easily be viewed as abnormal, they live a rather happy life. At least until Steven brings creepy teenager Martin (Barry Keoghan) into their life.

The 16-year-old outcast latches onto Steven for what seems like a sympathetic attempt at having a father figure. At first, the two spend time together going to a diner and simply enjoying each other’s company. The sweet and innocent relationship quickly turns south when Martin becomes borderline obsessed and reveals he has a much uglier plan in store for the doctor. Martin’s true intentions finally surface at the diner as he tells Steven that he is responsible for his son’s unforeseen problem. Instead of using the surgeon for malpractice, Martin exacts revenge for his father’s death by taking it out of the Murphy family. Each member of the family begins to feel and see the consequences Martin somehow instills.

Barry Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Photo Credit: A24.

When Steven finally accepts that there is no medical explanation for what is happening to his family, he confronts Martin and demands an answer. The psychopathic teen gives Steven an unbelievable ultimatum and no other solution than the one he presents. The audience watches in shock as the family undergoes a number of horrors, but react to them in inhuman manners. Most disturbing is the Murphys’ compliance with Martin’s demands and their ability to use logic rather than heart to solve the overall problem.

Barry Keoghan’s portrayal of Martin can arguably be identified as this “year’s scariest teen.” Lanthimos use of camera angles, high-pitched screeching audio and drastic character breakdown all contribute to the psychology of Martin and add to his unsettling demeanor. The director sets up an unusual boy as the counterpart to the strange family– each drawing out the worse in the other. It’s a thriller unlike any other.

Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Photo Credit: A24.

The film’s climax encompasses the worst of the family, and the final moment leaves the audience clinging to the edge of their seat. So much is presented throughout the film, but much of it is purposely left unanswered. How did Martin do it all? Was it paranormal, black magic or simply all psychological? Yorgos Lanthimos leaves it all up for interpretation in The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Overall Grade: A-

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