Last year, Yorgos Lanthimos released one of the most memorable and original films of 2016 with The Lobster. The Lobster was the sort of film that made you cry laughing and cry in heartbreak equally and often simultaneously. Lanthimos makes a quick return with a film that is definitely memorable in its horrific and tense images that scar you, and a film that is definitely one of the more original works you’ll see this year for the same reasons. I can’t go into the plot details, one of the delights is how Lanthimos chooses to dole out information slowly, but I’ll say that it revolves around the relationship between a heart surgeon, Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell, and a teenage boy, Martin (Barry Keoghan) that becomes a part of the Murphy family’s life to dark consequences. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is perhaps the most artful “blank from hell” movie ever made.
Colin Farrell works extremely well with Lanthimos. His performance in The Lobster was arguably the best of his career, and what Lanthimos brought out in him carries over to Sacred Deer. There’s a stilted mannerism to his interactions, a painful disconnect, as if he’s reading from a pamphlet about how human interaction is supposed to feel. The rest of the cast adopts this sort of aesthetic in talents like Nicole Kidman, Bill Camp and Alicia Silverstone.
Barry Keoghan is having a great year. He had an effective, emotional little performance in Dunkirk, and here he is giving the exact opposite effect. Kid has range. There’s just something about his look and demeanor that all at once makes him seem innocent and childlike, yet also terrifying and unsettling. It’s a marvelous mixture to watch him balance here. I called my stockbroker after I got out of the film and had him get me as much Barry Keoghan stock as he could.
Lanthimos and his career cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis continue to conjure up beguiling imagery. Through many of the hospital scenes, their camera follows Farrell in a tracking shot from up high. The uneven quality of the camera movement along with the downwards angle gives the feeling that they attached it to an IV, it’s a small technique that keeps you on edge in the simplest of moments. There’s always an obtuse feel to the look of the film, subtly amping up the uneasiness of the work.
It’s altogether deeply unsettling and darkly hilarious because of how deeply unsettling it is. The audience was never sure if they should laugh or not, adding to the tension of the piece. That’s what kind of movie it is. At a certain point, you’re certain you shouldn’t laugh, adding guilt to what you were laughing at before. It’s a strange effect from a strange movie. The Killing of a Sacred Deer reminds of films like Michael Haneke’s original Funny Games and Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear remake – it feels dangerous and threatening to watch it. I’m sorry I can’t say more, but you need to experience this wonderful and horrifying work as cold as possible.