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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Killing of a Sacred Deer': The Ominous Tale of a Young Man's Sinister Campaign of Retribution


Movie poster for The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) is an ominous and engrossing horror-thriller starring Colin Farrell as Dr. Steven Murphy, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Cincinnati, Ohio. Steven maintains an unusual friendship with 16-year-old Martin Lang (Barry Keoghan)—one that progresses dramatically while drawing in Steven's wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic).


As the storyline begins, Steven meets Martin for a seemingly routine dinner, the two trading pleasantries before Steven gifts Martin an expensive watch. We learn that Martin's father died several years earlier—Steven the attending surgeon unable to save his father on the operating table. Martin soon appears at Steven's hospital workplace and again at his home, in search of a surrogate father while simultaneously pining for the attention of Anna, Bob and Kim, in particular. After Steven rebuffs Martin for persistently violating his personal and familial boundaries, Martin levies a dark curse upon the entire family—the full actuality of which becoming the groundwork for a nightmarish tale of psychological distress.


Co-written and directed by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Favourite) and inspired by the ancient Greek tragedy "Iphigenia in Aulis" by Euripides, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a provocative and increasingly surrealistic depiction of human fallibility. By dismantling the proverbial nuclear family and laying bare their weaknesses, Lanthimos has crafted a piercing illustration of consequence and retribution. Given a major boost by the visual stylings of cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis and sharply unsettling harmonics from Finnish accordionist Janne Rättyä, it's an altogether chilling foray into the darker side of human interplay.

 

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