Friday, 20 October 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: LFF Review

I checked out Yorgos Lanthimos's darkly comic horror movie, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Hear my thoughts after the jump!


Yorgos Lanthimos’s arty horror meta-whatsit is unsettling and hilarious in equal measure, blending the bizarre strengths of Dogtooth and The Lobster to create something totally unique and utterly compelling.

Spoopy...
Colin Farrell stars as Dr. Stephen Murphy, a cardiologist who has it all. He’s respected both at work and in the field, and lives with his photogenic wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and children in a colossal suburban mansion, removed from the everyday worries of the world. He’s mostly average, but also has his idiosyncracies – to have sex with Anna, he commands ‘general anaesthetic’, at which point she flops lifelessly onto the marital bed. He also appears to be very good friends with a sixteen-year-old boy, Martin (Barry Keoghan, of “I’ll be useful sir” fame). The circumstances of the friendship are confused: is Stephen attracted to the boy? It appears not, especially as they invite each other over for dinner: Martin entering the palace of the rich surgeon, and Dr. Murphy visiting some ramshackle plastic-walled suburban nightmare straight out of Prisoners.

There’s more than a mutual love of pie and coke that’s compelling the two to meet so often. Martin displays a desperate addiction to Stephen, almost as a stalker hunting his prey: it turns out that Dr Murphy has been a bad man - a very bad man indeed – and bad men must pay the price for their wrongs. What follows is an elliptical maze of misdirection, psychological breakdown, and murder as an ancient curse appears to have been placed on the doctors family – causing his children to become mysteriously sicker every day.

Kubrickian symmetry...
Many images in The Killing of a Sacred Deer could be nightmare fuel. Paralysed children drag themselves across cold basement floors, begging their parents for more life, and even for the sacrifice of their siblings. Parents consultations turn into discussions over which child has more intrinsic worth. Militaristic executions occur in living rooms. Kids are tied up and beaten half to death – left to rot, bound to chairs. And yet, this monstrous vision feels darkly comic as a result of Lanthimos’s signature tone.

Those who have not seen The Lobster or Dogtooth will be unacustomed by the way in which the director requires his cast to speak in a robotic monotone – as if they don’t understand the words that’re coming out of their mouths. This, in turn, makes even the most sinister or banal lines take on an unnatural, comic edge. Combined with the artificial sheen of the production, most scenes of horriffic torture or violence (be it emotional or physical) elicited a laugh from the audience rather than a gasp of shock. I wonder whether the tale would have been aided by a more affecting, disturbing atmosphere – but the comedy certainly works.

Moody...
At many points, it seems to be a skew-whiff retelling of The Shining, complete with hallway tracking shots and coldly symmetrical rooms. And, to this end, Lanthimos appears to ask us to analyse the familial relationships in our life. Once we strip them of emotion and relatability, what lies under the surface? The characters in Killing begin to analyse the situation logistically – determining at one point that if they kill one of their children, they can simply have another one, or go through IVF. They all, at heart, love each other – but when worst comes to worst, a survival instinct kicks in and makes the brutality of the final act almost mechanistic.

It’s a rough message to take, and a rough film to endure whilst taking it, but at the end of the day it’s worth it. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is, without a doubt, a Yorgos Lanthimos film. Daring, distressing, and very weird indeed, it’s a singular experience for adventurous viewers, and not one that you’re likely to forget in a while. 
The Killing of a Sacred Deer gets 4 stars!

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