The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

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Critic Consensus: The Killing of a Sacred Deer continues director Yorgos Lanthimos' stubbornly idiosyncratic streak -- and demonstrates again that his is a talent not to be ignored.

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Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon presiding over a spotless household with his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two exemplary children, 12-year-old Bob (Sunny Suljic) and 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen who Steven has covertly taken under his wing. As Martin begins insinuating himself into the family's life in ever-more unsettling displays, the full scope of his intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter the Murphy family's domestic bliss.

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Critic Reviews for The Killing of a Sacred Deer

All Critics (251) | Top Critics (33)

It's less a film about crime and punishment than an occasion for Lanthimos to cycle through the idiosyncratic set of perversities that first grabbed our attention but has been growing staler with each picture.

Nov 10, 2017 | Full Review…

This is the feel-bad film of the year. Recommend it to someone you hate.

Nov 9, 2017 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Performances are solid all round, but the standout is Irish actor Keoghan. Shy and lonely one moment, utterly blood-chilling the next, he's a mesmerizing presence on this screen of menace.

Nov 3, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is haunting and singular and strange, but it's also icy, remote, and too enigmatic.

Nov 2, 2017 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

The characters don't register as real. Stephen's dilemma - he must choose to sacrifice someone he loves - carries no real emotional weight.

Nov 1, 2017 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is humane and satirical, horrifying and hilarious.

Oct 27, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Killing of a Sacred Deer

When it comes to taste in film, everything is subjective, everyone knows that. Whether a twisted film impresses you on an emotional level due to the uniqueness of it, or a drama doesn't work for you based on the acting, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I felt the need to state that after my viewing of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, because this is a film that will truly make people not see another movie for weeks or just simply turn it off after the very first frame (I'm not exaggerating). On the other hand, this is a very different film from most of the content out there today, so huge fans of cinema will be able to invest themselves in this insane ride of a movie. While I caution to take any of my negatives or positives with a very large grain of salt, here's why I believe The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an impressive movie, even though I found myself infuriated throughout the majority of its duration. Steve (a surgeon at a hospital) has taken young Martin under his wing due to the fact that he has a desire to pursue health care. Very quickly devolving into an evil plot, Steve discovers that his entire family is taken ill. For unknown reasons, he is faced with some very tough decisions that may result in some horrific imagery. Without ruining the movie, that's about all I can say, and while the premise itself seems bizarre and twisted, I can assure you the movie itself is even more so, so do with that information what you will. This film isn't for the faint of heart as I mentioned before, so let's dive into why that may be. From literally watching open heart surgery, to seeing children with bleeding eyes, to see cheating wives and husbands, to even relating to today's sexual abuse scandals in many more ways than one, this is a film that will probably scar some viewers in many more ways than one. With the addition that it's a fairly slow moving film, I can see many viewers complaining about this picture and stirring up controversy. The only reason that no real controversy has been brought up yet is probably that it went under the radar. Not really garnering the attention that it may or may not have deserved, I can sadly say this film probably needs to be found by the hardcore film fans instead of brought into the public eye. In terms of originality, there's no denying that writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos has what it takes to tell some incredible stories. While I haven't gone back to watch his earliest works, his work on The Lobster made it one of my favorite films of 2015. Sadly, I can't say the same praise about The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but I can once again commend him for being original. Nobody makes movies quite like he does so that deserves some recognition. The strange and unique ways that he approaches storytelling fascinates me and that's more than I can say about most filmmakers these days. In the end, I found this film to be incredibly original in terms of storytelling, but the way the film was presented felt a little egotistical to me. That may not be the case for some viewers, but I'm just being honest. With very minimal dialogue and odd camera angles, there's a lot to admire when watching this movie. To hardcore film lovers, I can't recommend checking out this unique piece of cinema enough, but if you're just looking for an average movie to pop on, I can't warn you of the opposite enough. If you placed a few hundred random people into a movie theatre and asked them to invest their time in this film, I can guarantee that at least 50 percent would either walk out or despise their experience, but that's okay because not everyone likes every single piece of art. While I didn't love this film from start to finish, it's a special one for different reasons.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

What a strange movie with even stranger characters. Quite liked it, despite Colin Farrell, who I can't stand, including here. Luckily I don't think you are meant to like him. The dialogue is quite stilted (intentionally) which makes this feel even weirder. I detested Lobster, so I'm glad I didn't know it was the same director until after seeing this as I don't think I'd have bothered with it.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

½

The film loses a bit of life at the end, but its straight-from-Kubrick cinematography and sound-mixing, as well as its bizarre storytelling, make it a worthwhile, albeit disturbing, experience.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

½

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos might just be the most perversely ingenious creative mind working in movies today. After Dogtooth and The Lobster, I will see anything that has this man's name attached to it, especially as a writer/director. Lanthimos' latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is a challenging revenge thriller, a macabre comedy, a morality play, and a generally uncomfortable watch that is just as alienating as it is totally brilliant. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a heart surgeon with a loving family that includes his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), teen daughter Kim (Tomorrowland's Raffrey Cassidy), and young song Bob (Sunny Suljic). Then there's Martin (Barry Keoghan), the lonely son of a patient who died on Steven's operating table. He won't leave Steven alone and doesn't understand boundaries, even trying to hook up Steven with his lonely mother (Alicia Silverstone, yep you read that right). Martin even takes an interest in Kim. However, once Steven's son falls victim of a mysterious illness and becomes paralyzed, Martin makes his true intentions clear. He's poisoned all three of the Murphy family members and they are destined to die slowly unless Steven kills one of them. He has to choose which family member's life to take with his own hands, or else they all die. It's hard for me to think of whom exactly to recommend this movie to because it is so intentionally off-putting. It's intended to make you awkwardly squirm and question what you are watching. This will not be a fun watch by most accounts unless you're a very select person who has a dark sense of humor and an appreciation for something different. Lanthimos seems to be purposely testing his audience's endurance from the start. We open on several seconds of black to test our patience and then an extended close-up of real open-heart surgery. My pal Ben Bailey had to shield his face from the screen. From there, the movie defies your expectations at most turns and digs further into its depths of darkness. This is one of those movies where you wonder whether it will go "there" and it most assuredly goes there and beyond. One minute you'll be cringing, the next you'll be cackling, and the next you'll be deeply unsettled, and then maybe back to laughing if you're like me. Much like Lanthimos' other movies, his deadpan sense of comedy is his prescription for an absurd world. It's a movie where you have to actively work to adjust to its bizarre wavelength, but if you can, there are rewards aplenty. I can't stop thinking about it. Unlike The Lobster, this doesn't exist in a completely parallel universe but more of a cracked, heightened version of our own. Lanthimos' breakout film, 2009's Dogtooth, dropped the audience into a strange world and expected us to catch up. This is similar. The flatly comic conversations become a sort of absurdist poetry. Everyday moments can be given one extra strange beat and become hilarious. Scene to scene, I didn't know what would happen. The movie allows its story to properly breathe while finding room for its characters to discover intriguing diversions and insights, like Martin's recollection of how he and his father eat spaghetti the same way. There's an unusual sexual kink that involves giving oneself completely to another that makes more than one appearance, enough to question the connection between them. The very geneses of that kink I think alligns with a character's god complex, but that's my working interpretation. It made me rethink about the aberrant concepts of sexuality in Dogtooth, a.k.a. the nightmare result of helicopter parenting. The handling of pubescent sexuality, and the idea of incorrectly applying information learned from other settings, is just one more tool to make the audience uneasy. Killing of a Sacred Deer exists in a closer approximation of our world in order for there to be a better sense of stakes. Somebody is going to die, and if Steven cannot choose then everyone will die. This isn't a fantasy world but a real family being terrorized by a demented and vengeful stalker. This gangly teenager is more terrifying and determined than just about any standard slasher villain. This is a modern-day Greek tragedy literally inspired by an ancient one. Prior to the Trojan War, Agamemnon was hunting and killed one of the sacred deer belonging to Artemis. The angry goddess stranded Agamemnon's ships and demanded a sacrifice in order for the winds to return. He had to choose one of his family members to kill, and Iphigenia got the short end of that one. Euripides' classic work gets a fresh retooling and Lanthimos is not one to merely stand on ceremony. He smartly develops his premise and takes it in organic directions that feel believable even given the ludicrous circumstances. That is Lanthimos' gift as a storyteller, being able to make the ludicrous feel genuine. After the half-hour mark, where Martin comes clean, the movie really takes off. Does Steven tell his family and how much? Does he take matters into his own hands to convince Martin to stop? Is he actually culpable for the death of Martin's father? Once the reality becomes clear and people starting getting increasingly sick, the movie becomes even direr. Steven is given the unenviable position to choose life and death, though he frequently shucks responsibility and only continues to make matters worse. Once his family comes to terms with the reality of Martin's threat, they each try different methods to argue their personal favor to dear old dad. They vie to be father's favorite or, at least, not his most expendable loved one. It's a richly macabre jockeying that had me laughing and then cackling from the plain absurdity. Lanthimos presents a tragedy and forces the audience to simmer and contemplate it, but he doesn't put his characters on hold either. They are adapting and have their own agendas, mostly doing whatever they can to campaign for their lives at the expense of their family (Vin Diesel's Fast and Furious character would loath this movie with a sleeveless fury). The end deserves its own mention but fear not dear reader I won't spoil it. It's a sequence that had me literally biting my own hand in anxiety. I was pushing myself backwards in my chair, trying to instinctively escape the moment. It's the culmination of the movie and feels entirely in keeping with Lanthimos' twisted vision and the depiction of Steven as a weak man. There's a strange sense of inevitability to it all that marks the best tragedies. I don't know if I'll sit through a more intense, uncomfortable few minutes in 2017, and yes I've seen, and appreciate, Darren Aronofsky's mother! of difficult 2017 sits. As much as this is a thriller it also feels just as much a satire of overwrought Hollywood thrillers. The killer isn't some shadowy evil genius. He's just a very determined teenager in your neighborhood. There are several moments that are difficult to describe but I know Lanthimos is doing them on purpose as a critique of thrillers. At the end, a character shakes a generous heaping of ketchup onto a plate of French fries, and we're meant to get the lazy metaphor of the sloshing ketchup as spilled blood. However, under Lanthimos' heavy direction, the shot holds longer, the accompanying soundtrack becomes an operatic crescendo, and the whole thing turns comic. Lanthimos has to know what he's doing here, commenting on the lazy symbolism of dread in overwrought thrillers. There's another instance where Martin has severely bitten into Steven's arm. Martin's apologetic and promises to make it right and then proceeds to bite a chunk of flesh out of his own arm and spit it onto the floor as an offering. That would have been creepy enough but then Lanthimos goes one step further. "Get it, it's a metaphor," Martin explains. It's one in a series of moments where Lanthimos goes a step further into pointed genre satire. It's possible I'm reading too much into the rationale behind some of these oddities but I don't really think so. It seems too knowing, too intentional. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a movie that invites discussion, analysis, and just a general debriefing in the "what the hell did I just watch?" vein. This is a movie experience that calls upon the full range of human emotions, and sometimes in the same moment. Lanthimos' modern Greek tragedy serves up a self-aware critique of its own genre, as he puts his personal stamp on the serial killer thriller. This is also an alienating film that doesn't try to be accessible for a wider audience. It almost feels like Andy Kaufman doing an experiment replicating Stanley Kubrick (and it was filmed in Cincinnati). Even if you loved Lathimos' most high profile work, The Lobster, I don't know if you'd feel the same way about Killing of a Sacred Deer. It wears its off-putting and moody nature as a badge of honor. I found it equally ridiculous and compelling, reflective and over-the-top, sardonic and serious. Dear reader, I have no idea what you'll think of this thing. If you're game for a demanding and unique filmgoing experience and don't mind being pushed in painfully awkward places, then drop into the stunning world of Lanthimos' purely twisted imagination. Killing of a Sacred Deer just gets better the more I dissect it, finding new meaning and connections. If you can handle its burdens of discomfort, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the most memorable films of the year and also one of the best. Nate's Grade: A-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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