Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer is in the same absurdist vein as his Lobster or Alps at times, and yet it’s darker and more horrific, although the fact that nearly nothing here makes sense is a very serious problem.
Obviously Lanthimos has seen one too many David Lynch productions and, like an awful lot of contemporary filmmakers, he fails to understand that only David Lynch can do David Lynch movies.
Just so we know where we stand, this opens with a close-up view of a genuine beating heart exposed during surgery, and we’re then introduced to cardiologist Steven Murphy, who’s played by The Lobster’s Colin Farrell, and he gets the ball rolling by adopting the infuriatingly monotone dialogue delivery that every actor will use from hereon.
He’s got a spacy wife named Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two kids, daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and young son Bob (Sunny Suljic), and yet their curious domestic bliss is being threatened by a secret and uneasy friendship that Steven has with the intense Martin (Barry Keoghan, who tries to out-deadpan Colin at every step).
The mystery of who Martin actually is hangs heavy throughout the first half of the film, and we’re left to wonder if there’s some kind of dangerous, stalker-ish blackmail going on (or even a touch of the old Fatal Attraction), but then Martin’s allowed to meet Steven’s family and the children grow fascinated and a little obsessed with him and his creepy ways.
Then comes an unexpected and irksome second half in which an almost supernatural element is introduced but never explained (note that Martin’s favourite film is Groundhog Day), and we build to a final act that’s weird for weird’s sake and probably looked truly shocking on the page. Although by this point it’s hard to care about any of the characters in the slightest.
Pretentious enough to include a reference to Greek mythology in its title that no one’s going to understand without a trip to Wikipedia, Lonthimos’ latest is agreeably peculiar in its early stages and offers a sometimes nicely claustrophobic atmosphere, but then the whole thing just goes off its brain and leaves you unsure what the Hell happened. And it’s hard not to suspect that Yorgos doesn’t really know either, and that his own film is all Greek to him.
Rated MA. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is in cinemas now.