The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of those films where I just didn’t *get* the title and the trailer at first, but as soon as I saw it was made by Yorgos Lanthimos, the same director as the incredible and bizarre The Lobster, I was sold on this, and it is a must-see, but it IS weird as hell.
Colin Farrell plays heart surgeon Steven Murphy who, prior to the film, had treated the father of 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan, who played the young lad, George, in Dunkirk, taking a ride at the last minute with Mark Rylance), but the man died from a stroke at the age of 46, so it immediately has echoes of ITV’s recent lacklustre drama, Trauma, but this movie goes way beyond that.
What follows is, over time, the boy seeking to inflict poor physical and mental health on Steven’s family in ways that can’t easily be described, so you just have to watch it to see how things pan out. I will say that Martin does seem to take an unhealthy interest in the surgeon and his family, especially his daughter, but not like a conventional stalker thriller, as is certainly shown from the strange music played throughout the majority of it.
For my other thoughts on the The Killing of a Sacred Deer, like the director, I’ll also go the unconventional route and just list them in a random order:
- There’s an early dinner scene where the conversation starts before the camera goes inside the house. Only with subtitles on can you understand everything. Another goes the same way, later.
- Yorgos Lanthimos also brings us many wonderful tracking shots, some strange – but intriguing – camera positioning during conversations, as well as some slomo. In fact, I also loved how the camera was often focussed on one person in a two-hander scene, while the other stays off-camera for the most part, and then it swaps back for a while.
- Steven and Anna (Nicole Kidman) have sex with her pretending to be a patient under general anaesthetic… Surely his silly big beard would wake her up?
- The film feels like it has intentionally stilted dialogue, which is as amusing as it is engaging.
- With scenes shot in Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio, Steven works in the most empty hospital I’ve ever seen.
- The game of “Who has the best secret?” is one of the most disturbing things I’ve heard, when Colin takes his turn.
- Barry Keoghan played a very straight-laced character as George in Dunkirk, but here, he’s incredibly disturbing.
- Rumour has it, Colin Farrell had to learn and practice open heart surgery for this role… I’m kidding, of course, but those scenes are real, and were performs on a real patient who was undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, which Mr Farrell attended.
The film is presented in the original theatrical 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and the picture gets across the cold and harsh feel of the stark hospital which often features, as well as every other similar scene which serves to encapsulate the viewer.
The sound is in DTS 5.1 HD-MA, and there’s not too much in the way of split-surround audio as it’s mostly a dialogue-driven piece, but there’s those strange music sounds from time to time.
The extras are as follows:
- Q&A (28:19): with the director, plus Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Nicole Kidman and Raffey Cassidy.
- Featurette (22:55): Clips from the film mixed with the cast and crew, with beginning with the director stating how he likes watching films which are uncomfortable, and make him work, and leave him thinking about them. Naturally, there are plenty of spoilers in this, so don’t watch it before the film.
- Trailer (1:48): In the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and since the film’s so weird, the trailer doesn’t spoil anything.
- Audio descriptive track: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
The menu mixes clips from the film with a piece of the score, and there’s the bog standard 12 chapters.
Running time: 121 minutes
Released: March 5th 2018
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (Super 35 (3-perf))
Sound: DTS HD-MA 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Producers: Ed Guiney and Yorgos Lanthimos
Screenplay: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Steven Murphy: Colin Farrell
Martin: Barry Keoghan
Anna Murphy: Nicole Kidman
Kim Murphy: Raffey Cassidy
Bob Murphy: Sunny Suljic
Martin’s Mother: Alicia Silverstone
Matthew Williams: Bill Camp
Dr. Larry Banks: Barry G Bernson
Ed Thompson (Hospital Director): Herb Caillouet
Mary Williams: Denise Dal Vera
Principal: Drew Logan
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.