Review: ‘Sacred Deer’ leaves viewers in headlights

The latest from ‘Lobster’ director Yorgos Lanthimos is a maddeningly twisted tale that will leave scars

Adam Graham
The Detroit News


“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is a darkly comic, deeply disturbing, dastardly twisted psychological thriller that crawls under your skin and infects from the inside out.

Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

It comes from writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose work — including last year’s “The Lobster” — shows a fractured take on humanity that borders on contempt. With “Sacred Deer,” that contempt nearly becomes hatred.

Colin Farrell plays Steven, a Cincinnati surgeon. His wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) is a cardiologist, and they have two children at home.

Steven meets regularly with Martin (Barry Keoghan of “Dunkirk” in one of the year’s creepiest, most effective performances), a disturbed young man whose father was a patient of Steven’s. Their link turns sinister when Steven’s children suddenly develop a mysterious illness that causes their legs to go limp and their appetites to disappear, and the only solution, as explained by Martin, is a ritual sacrifice.

Lanthimos, who co-wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou, is deeply influenced by Stanley Kubrick; “Sacred Deer” has elements of “The Shining,” “2001” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” and he shoots in wide, clean, lingering shots reminiscent of Kubrick.

His characters talk in a flat, affection-less tone like they’re ordering from a takeout menu; every conversation becomes a dull exchange of words, a meaningless trading of sounds. Yet the film — which opens with a lingering shot of a beating heart — is anything but passive.

Lanthimos’ style is sure to infuriate some viewers, but that’s the point. Good or bad, he wants you to feel something, and with “Sacred Deer,” oh boy, he hits his mark.

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‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’


Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity and language

Running time: 121 minutes