Yorgos Lanthimos directs this psychological horror/mystery film, centred around a seemingly normal family, headed by a celebrated surgeon whose life is flipped upside down after he befriends a mysterious teenage boy, the film stars Colin Farrel, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Alicia Silverstone and Sunny Siljic.
Boy do I have thing to say about this film… but let’s start off with the seemingly inherent hypocrisy a reviewer can face when it comes to mysterious, enigmatic films like this that present an intriguing premise but offer little in the way of explanation and I’m guilty of this, either quite liking a film with such a set up or completely being turned off, I quite liked It Comes At Night for example but I left The Killing of a Sacred Deer a bit disappointed.The frustrating thing is that slow burn mystery horror films like this are almost all set up the same narratively but can elicit such vastly different responses and in itself, that’s a great thing about films. The films’ tone and set up quite reminds me of Dogtooth actually, also by Lanthimos, one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
But honestly the film’s just not great, despite a pretty good cast as well, Colin Farrel as Steven, figurehead of the Murphy family and a caring family man, alongside Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two kids Kim and Bob, they’re a pretty normal family but then again they’re kind of not aside from the parents, the kids are sort of twistedfgrom the offset, even without the even stranger Martin (Barry Keoghan) coming into the fray. And this is part of where the film loses me, it’s almost like the writing is trying to make the film strange and unnerving right from the start with very odd dialogue and line delivery that sticks out so much it had me practically saying “no one talks like this” and with such dialogue, Lanthimos seems to like flattening certain characters in his films to almost one dimensional levels, making it hard to connect with or empathize with them. This is in part played for black comedy I’m sure, with the Murphy kids especially talking so bluntly to each other and their parents without a hint of humor to the absurdity of what they’re saying, the kids are also strangely emotionless throughout the film and this distance from the characters makes it hard to empathise with them.
The dialogue is so bad that it both takes you out of the film in fact and reduces any potential emotional impact and I struggled to really come to terms with anything that was happening in a logical sense (much like the parents in the story I suppose) but with no real backstory for Martin and no explanation of anything whatsoever, things happen and the story goes it course…. and that’s basically it. There are some well framed shots and long takes that linger on a bit too long to help evoke a feeling of nervousness and an unsettling feeling does pervade the film so it does succeed in that regard, with Barry Keoghan giving a truly twisted and bizarre but nonetheless memorable performance. While a scene in particular was so disturbing that I could barely watch it – this coming from a guy that is un-phased by the vast majority of horror films.
Anyway the film did nothing for me despite instilling an unsettled feeling and I feel like the story is a big missed opportunity, structurally it could have been put together better, especially with the writing. For more detail on it, the premise is sort of based on an Ancient Greek tragedy – ‘Iphigenia in Auglis’ and reading up on it does bring the basic layout of the story to a more coherent place but this modern adaptation of it left me well, un-phased. Because no film deserves a pass on good writing and plot, for the sake of the viewing experience, no matter how big or small it is.
. Poor pacing
. Bad writing, trying to evoke an unnatural feeling through dialogue that feels too forced
. Plot feels a bit hollow and void of any impact, in part due to the writing and detached tone of the film