Oh hey there little friends, how are you doing on this Valentine’s Day of Valentine and love and stuff? I figured since I haven’t written any film reviews in a hot minute that I would pop in to say hello and offer you up some of my thoughts that you did not ask for but I’m going to provide anyways, and talk to you all about Yorgos Lanthimos’s art film epic Cannes darling, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”.
Just so we get things out in the open right away (like so many secrets), this review WILL contain SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, maybe give this one a miss until you have. Also, if you’re a fanboy of this particular film/director, you could also give this one a miss, because yeah. I wasn’t into this film. So, there’s your fair warning straight up.
So, like many of the films humped to death by the hype machine, The Killing of a Sacred Deer was really not much different. The film ran the independent cinema circuit, and was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm award), which is the highest award at 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The film itself did quite well on the festival circuit, picking up the award for best screenplay at 2017 Cannes. I’m not really confused with any of this, but what I am confused about is why people got their collective dicks hard over how “fucked up”, this film was supposed to be. I’m looking in your direction horror community.
Now, hear me out here. I like art films. I’ve watched my fair share of independent straight out of art school bullshit and I get the concept behind creating pieces of cinema that are not simply films, not simply entertainment, but are rather statements, theses, even if you will. The Killing of a Sacred Deer attempted to make similar statements, writing wordplay and poetry into a film, that was, to be quite fair – beautiful. The cinematography in this film was gorgeous. Expansive long shots of a very cold and clinical environemt, a local hospital, opens the film. A surgeon and his anesthesiologist friend walk and talk as the bustle of a hospital happens around them. The surgeon is played by a slighly worn but entirely bearded Colin Farrell, who asks his friend about a watch, which he intends to purchase as a gift for his son. In later scenes, the watch is given to a boy that is clearly not his son.
Like many who are familiar with creep of the week headlines, my immediate thought was to wonder if Colin Farrell’s character, with his picture perfect wife (played by Nicole Kidman) and two children at home, were merely window dressing for a life that was truly more sexually devious in nature. I wondered if there was some pederasty at play.
The family that Collin Farrell has in this film is the most stilted and white fucking family EVER. They never really come off as real people with real emotions. They are portrayed as so preternaturally present and together. They’re always touching, always holding each other. It seems unnatural. They seem like aliens who have just landed on Earth and are trying to pretend to be people. The conversations they have together are so jarringly bland. They’re like Invader Zim’s robot parents.
I think what is being conveyed here is how unreal these people seem. I was in a conversation recently where a friend of mine was confiding in me her fear of physicians. She said to me something profound, even though she was drunk on white wine at 4am – “who else is closer to God than a doctor?”. Thinking about this, she’s kind of right, I mean, if you’re a believer. But even if you are not, doctors have this knowledge that seems to be supernatural. Interacting with the most primal element of existence – living and dying, and somehow existing in a space in between both. This was something that wasn’t played with enough in the film. The surgeons and educated doctors in the film came off as snooty more often than otherworldly, although Collin Farrell did have a few lines where he foists any of his responsibility onto other colleagues.
As the story develops we find that Steven (Collin Farrell) was the surgeon on a day that a patient who had been in a car accident was brought into trauma surgery. The patient died on the operating table. The patient was the father of the boy that Steven bought the watch for, a creepy boy named Martin. Martin takes a fancy to the doctor and his family, and Steven’s teenage daughter Kim gets a real wide on for Martin if you know what I mean. Anyways, Martin is a real creepazoid, and his mom who is played by an aging Alicia Silverstone tries to hop on Steven’s dick when Steven goes to dinner.
After this, Steven starts trying to duck Martin’s creepy advances to be a part of the family, and his son Bob all of a sudden wakes up and can’t walk.
Steven tries to reason with his son, who has nothing physically wrong with him, despite the battery of medical tests he is subjected to. There’s a fairly shocking piece of dialogue where Steven talks about jerking off his dad which is really just exactly what I needed to hear. I saw this film at a local film festival with Rigby and Scotty and it was one of those special “Film Society” events where everyone in attendance was super artsy and also fartsy. Needless to say we guffawed at this jerk off story in a very inappropriate manner, and Scotty assumed we would be kicked out. Anywho, I don’t think this is how that bit was supposed to play out, but it was unintentionally hilarious nevertheless.
Martin ends up meeting with the doctor as his family falls into increasing disrepair. Martin informs him that he holds Steven responsible for the death of his father (who died on Steven’s operating table), and because of this, he has decided to make it all “fair”, and that one by one Steven’s family will die. The first stage of this loss will be the loss of the ability to walk, the second will be refusal of all food, the third will be bleeding eyes, and the fourth will be death,
Steven, being a man of science of course doesn’t buy what Martin’s saying. But pretty soon, both of his children are unable to walk and refusing to eat food. Nicole Kidman’s character meanwhile realizes that this surgery happened during a time when Steven was hitting the bottle hard, and in exchange for a weird handjob to his anesthesiologist friend, she receives confirmation that Steven was plastered the day of the surgery in question.
As the family descends into hell with both of their children being fed through feeding tubes, essentially dying, the husband and wife bitterly argue over the responsibility of Steven’s to save the family. Steven seeks advice from the children’s teachers, attempting to make the worst possible Sophie’s choice. When he is unable to make a decision regarding which one of his family to sacrifice on the altar of his own hubris, he elects to tie them all up, put on a mask, and spin around with a shotgun, firing wildly. I’m sure this scene was supposed to read as horrific, but it read as unintentionally hilarious instead.
His son Bob ends up being shot, and the family later sees Martin out on the street and we see that the daughter Kim is eating again. All has been made fair.
Now don’t get me wrong here – this movie was gorgeous to look at, and the score was magnificent, save for the overdone piano stings that really got incredibly irritating after the over two hour length of this film, but the story did not require a two hour run time even in the slightest. There’s a point where I can only take in so many artsy and expansive shots of things, and white people being super white, before I start checking my watch, and the worst thing I can be while watching a film is bored, and I found myself there many times during the watching of The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.
I was just overall unhappy with how everything turned out. I didn’t think the movie was “fucked up”, it just seemed like a standard artsy venture. I really felt it bore a lot of similarities to Jovanka Vuckovic’s short film from the XX anthology called “The Box” which was based on a short story by Jack Ketchum. I think as well that this film would have played much better as a short because then the story telling wouldn’t have had to go from tense to pointlessly meandering.
I’m sure I’m going to get mocked and booed for this sentiment, but this really didn’t do it for me even in the slightest, and if you’re a listener of our podcast, we went over our thoughts on The Killing Of A Sacred Deer on Episode 54: Finger Her Once, and over there I gave it 1.5 out of 6 and I know I’m in the minority of people with this one. And yes, I did like mother!.
Anyways, until next time, remember to jerk off Colin Farrell’s dad and always stay spooky.
You can find Robin on twitter thinking about jerking off Colin Farrell’s dad and if physicians are close to God or nah.