Movie Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
by Jason Koenigsberg
When the opening shot of a movie is a straight shot of open heart surgery as the heart pumps ferociously, the director is warning you that this movie is going to be a close up examination of the vital organ important to life and art. Well, that could be what The Killing of a Sacred Deer is about. Much like Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous film The Lobster, which also starred Colin Farrell, I am not entirely sure this movie is meant to be taken seriously. At the very least it is certainly not intended to be viewed at face value. Somewhere underneath this mess there may be a metaphor about families, fate, revenge, marriage or movies themselves.
Right after the graphic close up of the heart we meet the surgeon played by Farrell. Right after he seems to just lose a patient he is immediately discussing expensive timepieces with a colleague. Nicole Kidman plays his wife and she shows off her body a lot in this picture for no apparent reason. She still looks great now in her fifties, and there probably was a reason for it, but your guess is as good as mine. This attractive and accomplished couple have two children, a daughter at fourteen which they inform us several times, has just started menstruating, and a younger son who does not want to cut his hair. There is a third child in The Killing of a Sacred Deer and he is a sixteen year old boy that has a weirdly close relationship with Colin Farrell’s cardiologist. He says it is because he wants to be cardiologist but this affiliation seems to be more than that right from the moment we see them on screen together.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an odd mashup of pretentiousness and satire. The director uses slow motion at very random seemingly insignificant moments. There are a lot of crosses and Christian imagery, and some of the wide shots and overly dramatic music is identical to some of the images and sounds of Stanley Kubrick’s films. These actors are obviously talented but they do not talk in a natural way at all. The script seems as if it were written to be intentionally bizarre and unrealistic, yet it is never clear as to why. I hope that this movie was not meant to be taken seriously and is some sort of experimental commentary on motion pictures, otherwise The Killing of a Sacred Deer is easily one of the worst films of the year. But too many intelligent people are involved that there must be more to what is given to the audience on the surface.
The only theory I can conclude is that Sacred Deer is meant to be a satire on all of those “_______ from hell” movies that were popular about a quarter of a century ago. This movie felt like Fatal Attraction (1987) only instead it is a peculiar sixteen year old boy invading a doctors family life. The way Fatal Attraction was the girlfriend from hell, Single White Female (1992) was the roommate from hell, and The Cable Guy (1996) was a misguided satire about the cable repairman/friend from hell, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is very much in the same vein although the movie itself feels like it takes place in its own separate planet away from Earth. The Cable Guy was meant to be a dark and comedic satire on those psychotic stalker movies where a character is obsessed with revenge or obtaining their own desires. They were very popular in the late 80’s through early 90’s. Even the Hitchcockian One Hour Photo (2002) used that formula to make a powerful thriller. They have never really gone away, just as not as in-demand as they were a quarter century ago.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is basically and artsy and pretentious version of The Cable Guy. That movie was slightly better because although it did not entirely work, at least we knew it was a comedy so seeing Jim Carrey taunt Matthew Broderick in extremely invasive ways was not meant to be taken seriously. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is impossible to take seriously. As stated earlier if you do, you will think this is one of the worst movies ever made. If you do not, you will probably just leave the theater shrugging your shoulders. Maybe over time moments from this film will grow on me. I just wish that there was one character that broke the illusion from the rest of these actors and talked normally like he was from the real world and not the pretentious arthouse world this movie creates. That would have given the audience at least one character to relate to and maybe lightened the mood so audiences knew it was meant to be facetious.
Instead of seeing The Killing of a Sacred Deer check out this retrospective on The Cable Guy. I never cared for the film, but it does make me think about it in a more positive light.