Released after the controversial mother!, and the record breaking It, The Killing of a Sacred Deer left little impression on the box office. Featuring an all star cast of Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, Sacred Deer is the suspenseful tale of cardiologist Steven Murphy (Firth) who has a mysterious friendship with Martin (Keoghan). When Steven’s children become mysteriously ill, a difficult decision has to be made.
Starring next to Hollywood heavyweights Firth and Kidman, Keoghan still manages to stand out. Coming off his strong performance in Dunkirk, Keoghan shows impressive range. Martin is incredibly manipulative. His sense of morality and justice are frightening and he calmly explains even the most horrific decisions. The performance is especially noteworthy since Steven and his wife Anna are played expertly by Firth and Kidman. The Murphys are deep characters, yet Martin steals every scene.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos does an excellent job of increasing tension, most notably with sound. There are long periods of silence that are suddenly filled with a loud bang or an ear-piercing ringing. The movie does not use a traditional score and most sounds in the movie are a result of the environment. These never frighten but instead create a sense of anxiety. Lanthimos is also methodical in his direction, allowing scenes to deliver maximum impact. Many psychological horror movies use close shots in order to heighten a sense of claustrophobia. Sacred Deer is the opposite, using long shots with few cuts. The camera work is beautiful.
The story of Sacred Deer may be a difficult watch. The decision Steven has to make is an incredibly grim one. What he ultimately decides to do will leave many people feeling uncomfortable. The movie is also dialogue heavy and moves at a very deliberate pace. Even the Murphys’ sex life seems clinical. While the movie provides many anxious moments, it is far from exciting. Alicia Silverstone has a small role as Martin’s mother and displays more emotion than anyone else. It is telling that her character is seen as an afterthought by everyone else. Predestination is one of the film’s themes which may explain why almost all of the characters speak in a dispassionate tone. Still, this may be off putting to some.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a tense movie that is more about telling a story. Instead of jump scares and explanations the audience is left to decipher everything on their own. The movie takes its time developing but is definitely worth seeing.