The Killing of a Sacred Deer Review – Shocking, Surprising, A Hitchcockian Thriller

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer, from A24, presents a shocking dramatic thriller as the family of Dr. Steven Murphy, a renown cardiovascular surgeon, becomes the sacrifice in a satanic pawn brought on by the death of a patient.

Directed and co-written by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, and Bill Camp and was also co-written by Efthymis Filippou.

The Killing of the Sacred Deer begins with a shocking beating heart pumping on the screen. For longer than one would expect, the exposed muscle, with blood, flesh and veins, arteries exposed, and then a small pull back shows the flesh, clamp back, we are in an operating room, and surgery is finishing.


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Dr. Steven Murphy has just closed on another successful surgery and as he walks down the very sterile hallway of the hospital begins small talk with his anesthesiologist, Matthew, played by Bill Camp. The two know each other very well.

The next scene, Dr. Murphy is walking near the river of this mid-western town, is met by Martin Lang, played by Barry Keoghan, the son of a former patient who died on the operating table. Steven has been spending time with him. Not for Martin’s sake, Steven is trying to appease his own feelings.

In the next scene we meet Dr. Murphy’s family. His equally successful wife, Anne, played by Nicole Kidman, an ophthalmologist, and his son, Bob, played by Sunny Suljic, and his daughter, Kim,  played by Raffey Cassidy.

The family, over dinner, we find, Bob really likes his hair long and even as his father has repeatedly told him to cut it, he is holding out, and Kim really doesn’t like walking the dog she’d rather have Bob’s chores of watering the plants.

So with the few bumps in the daily routine, our very successful Murphy family is totally unprepared for the next challenges.

Martin, who Dr. Murphy has given specific times and days when he can meet begins to violate the boundaries of their relationship. He begins to show up unannounced, hiding, forcing Steven to lie about who he is as he doesn’t want others to know he needs to satisfy some nagging feelings about an operation gone bad.

The Killing of the Sacred Deer takes on a darker tone after Martin comes to dinner at the Murphy’s. The doctor believing it would be permissible to show the fatherless son, a happy, loving, although a bit bizarre, family.

Martin mistakes Dr. Murphy’s kindness as an open invitation to freely braid himself into his family and daughter’s life. Soon Kim, who is 12, is offering sex and is betraying her family and disobeying her Dad.

With a sufficient wedge driven into the family unit, Martin pleads with Steven to come and meet his mom, who is played by Alicia Silverstone. Appeasing Martin, who continues to manipulate and violate boundaries, seems to have no end for the doctor or so it would seem.


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Steven is feeling trapped, high priced gifts, lunches, phone calls, meetings at the hospital, walks by the river, while it can all be explained it is also potentially damaging, his wife is distant, his children are suddenly disobeying him and now Bob is late for school.

What follows is a Satanic attack on this suburban family that is uncontrollable. Finally Steven understands the importance of his life and the measure in which it should be guarded and it is too late.

The Killing of the Sacred Deer is a thriller along the lines of Alfred Hitchcock. As plausible explanation are unavailable the unruffled doctor becomes someone outside himself and in order to end this plague set upon his family, that Martin explained to him clearly what would happen and which symptoms would be the precursors to death.

Colin Farrell gives a shocking and realistic portrayal of a man driven over the edge. His analytical capacities tested, his medical knowledge exhausted, he is without a lifeline. He is the one dying now.

Nicole Kidman as the plague falls upon them she becomes more aware of the power this emissary of Satan has and with her family facing death, the desperation of the times calls for measures that one day earlier would never be considered.

Alicia Silverstone is so good at playing less refined, classless, and clueless, and shows it in this film. Her role only allows her limited screen time and she steals the scenes.

The Killing of the Sacred Deer is playing in theaters and is surprising right up to the shocking ending.

See it.

Image courtesy of IMDB