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The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Review

The Killing of a Sacred Deer offers an unsettling and disturbing insight into a twisted world that’s actually not so unlike our own.



Yorgos Lanthimos has made a name for himself over the years as the kind of director whose films are often distant and unacceptable, but once audiences are finally able to breach the surface of his narratives, there are some really mature and fascinating ideas hidden within. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is perhaps the best example of this concept so far. On the surface, it’s a very awkward and confusing story about a young boy who tries to take revenge on an unhappy surgeon for the death of his father – but on a more thematic and structural level, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is Lanthimos’ most twisted and disturbing film to date, filled with imagery of demons and witchcraft that really served to highlight how much evil can often be hidden within ordinary things.

The story begins when a heart surgeon named Steven (Colin Farrell) meets up with his teenage friend Martin (Barry Keoghan), whose father died several years earlier. As the pair grow closer and Steven develops a complicated relationship with Martin’s mother, one of Steven’s children falls seriously ill and he’s forced to make an impossible choice that Martin finds himself at the center of. In typical Lanthimos style, The Killing of a Sacred Deer never shies away from those seriously disturbing moments that really worm their way under the audience’s skin, creating that unique atmosphere that very few directors have been able to replicate. But it works because it’s not superficial: he’s not doing it for fun, but rather to enhance the film’s message about corruption and sin.

At its core, The Killing of a Sacred Deer lands somewhere between a cautionary tale and an exploration of contemporary society – everything is dialled to the extreme, but it’s evident that Lanthimos is commenting on just how much evil and danger can be found in even the most mundane and ordinary parts of the world, and that’s what makes it so frightening. There are no jumpscares or bumps in the dark, but Lanthimos manages to really scare the audience with the sheer boldness of his story. Watching Steven’s character gradually unravel and fall apart as he’s forced to navigate this sickening situation is scarier than most all-out horror stories, which is a real accomplishment.

loud and clear reviews The Killing of a Sacred Deer (A24)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (A24)

It’s impossible to talk about The Killing of a Sacred Deer without commenting on the unique aesthetics of the film, particularly the specific acting style. Every single member of the cast is on board with these strange, unfamiliar line deliveries that are completely monotonous and weirdly intoned, which is definitely the first hurdle for most audiences. The actors are very clearly reading a script: it’s not intended to be realistic or authentic in the slightest, but it somehow works to the film’s benefit. Not only does this awkward acting make the audience even more uncomfortable, because it goes against everything we expect from a talented cast like this, but it also reminds us at every turn that what we’re watching isn’t real. It breaks the barrier between Lanthimos and the audience, really exposing us to what he’s trying to say.

The following paragraph contains spoilers for The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

The conclusion of The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an extremely controversial one that turned plenty of audiences sour on the entire project, and while it’s admittedly fitting to the story and makes complete sense narratively, it’s obvious why. By killing his son Bob (Sunny Suljic) and guiding his family to safety, Steven goes against everything that he’s fought for throughout the story and ultimately allows Martin’s evil and corruption to win. It’s a hugely disappointing message that could easily have ruined the film if it hadn’t already been built towards so potently. The film is an entirely pessimistic and depressing one – Lanthimos provides no escape for the heroes, no way of saving themselves, just a horrible situation from which evil is the only escape. It’s a difficult story to stomach, but it’s one that many people will find some kind of twisted familiarity in.


Get it on Apple TV

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is now available to watch on digital and on demand.

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