Published Oct 29, 2017At this point, it's dismissive to consider Yorgos Lanthimos the leader of Greek cinema's new wave. The Killing of a Sacred Deer — his second English-language feature and second Colin Farrell collaboration — is so confident, singular and affecting that Lanthimos should be considered a master of modern film, period.
Here, Lanthimos once again teams up with screenwriter Efthymis Filippou, who co-wrote his similarly offbeat black comedies Dogtooth, Alps and The Lobster. With The Killing of a Sacred Deer, they reveal that maybe they've been writing horror movies all along; after all, the new movie is only a subtle hint darker than their previous work, and will leave you reeling with heebie-jeebies.
As with most Lanthimos films, the less you know the better going into Sacred Deer — and we certainly won't spoil it here. All you really need to know is that Farrell and Nicole Kidman play Steven and Anna Murphy, a pair of seemingly happy married doctors who live in an enormous house with their two children. In his free time, Steven has developed an unlikely friendship with a young boy named Martin (an arresting Barry Keoghan) whose off-putting mannerisms prove to be an accurate representation of his sinister motives.
It's important not to give away much more, because despite Lanthimos's requirement for us to suspend disbelief, he still lays out his movie's rules plain and simple — there are no unanswered questions to the villain's motives, nor are there surreal passages left open for interpretation. Instead, Sacred Deer is a gruesome, fucked-up fairy tale that will stick with you for days to come.
The film has a solid plot, but it's still marked by Lanthimos's untouchable stylistic flourishes. Shot in Cincinnati, the film's sickly hospital scenes evoke early Cronenberg, but director of photography Thimios Bakatakis introduces shots you've likely never seen before. Handheld cameras follow characters at waist level or hover above like indoor drones. Then there are panning shots that warp the dimensions of any given room, resulting in a disorienting, woozy feel.
Because it's a truly unique viewing experience, The Killing of a Sacred Deer fits in well with Yorgos Lanthimos's impressive filmography. Still, thanks to its creeping tension, jaw-dropping cinematography and perfect pacing, it just might stand as his best work yet.