Cannes 2017: 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' is Insidious, Icky, Unsettling
by Alex Billington
May 22, 2017
The master provocateur returns again and he's definitely going to rattle some cages with this film, there's no doubt about it. Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has unveiled his latest film at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, titled The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and it's some seriously creepy, unsettling stuff. I don't want to give away too much, but the film is a Kubrickian psychological horror about a family which plays out in the most chilling, disturbing way. It will get under your skin, it will make you feel icky, it will upset you, and test your limits. Some people are going to hate this film, just hate it, while others are going to love it, and laugh with it, and enjoy every second of it. But that's the skill of a great filmmaker - making you feel things that maybe you don't want to feel, and challenging you to either accept or reject the ideas they're presenting.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer has a very simple premise - a young boy befriends a brilliant surgeon, and tries to become a part of his family. But we soon find out there's ulterior motives and more going on, and things get creepy quick. There's a very powerful, moody score that sets the tone right off the bat and comes into play often in the film. It's a bit overbearing at times, but is being used for obvious effect, to make the viewer begin to squirm in their seat before anything is happening. That's the power of this film - there's nothing we're seeing on screen that is disgusting, it's just the conversations and the eeriness and the music and everything that isn't being said that is so unsettling. And as it continues to play out, and we start to figure out what's going on, you'll either hate what's happening, or fear it, which is exactly what Lanthimos wants.
The story follows a wealthy family played by Colin Farrell as the father, Nicole Kidman as the mother, and their two kids, played by Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic. This might be controversial - but these characters are dumb. They are supposed to be brilliant doctors, but they never seem to understand what's going on. At one point, the boy (played by Barry Keoghan) who's causing all the problems literally tells the father exactly what's going to happen. But he doesn't believe it, he doesn't buy it. Even when it starts happening, they never even talk about it. There's an peculiar religious side to the film. They are supposed to be intelligent people of science, yet they reject the things happening because they're not based in science, they can't be explained. It's that religion vs science dynamic that makes this film so fascinating to dissect.
As for me, I figured out early on what was happening and I dug it. From there on out I was hooked, I was along for the ride. There's some seriously dark, twisted humor in this and if you know what you're watching, it's possible to laugh at this film and still enjoy it, even though it makes you feel so icky. It's so good to see a film that is so provocative and divisive. It's impressive that it can make you feel such intense emotions, even bad ones, because that means he's very effective at manipulation which is what allows us to reflect and learn from cinematic experiences. And by the end, you will definitely have something to say about this film, love or hate. If you're like me, you'll want to talk about it and analyze it for hours with others who've seen it. This is what makes Yorgos Lanthimos such a unique director who continues to mature with each film he makes.
Alex's Cannes 2017 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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