The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a 2017 psychological horror thriller film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, from a screenplay by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou. It stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, and Bill Camp. The story is based on the ancient Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides. The film follows a cardiac surgeon (Farrell) who secretly befriends a teenage boy (Keoghan) with a connection to his past. He introduces the boy to his family, who begin to fall mysteriously ill.
|The Killing of a Sacred Deer|
|Directed by||Yorgos Lanthimos|
|Based on||Iphigenia at Aulis|
|Edited by||Yorgos Mavropsaridis|
|Distributed by||Curzon Artificial Eye|
|Box office||$7 million|
The Killing of a Sacred Deer was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. It was theatrically released in the United States on 20 October 2017 by A24 and in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 3 November 2017 by Curzon Artificial Eye. It has received positive reviews and grossed over $7 million worldwide.
Steven Murphy, a skilled cardiothoracic surgeon in Cincinnati, finishes an open heart surgery. He then goes to a diner, where he meets a young man, Martin. Afterward, he returns home to his wife, Anna, and their children, daughter Kim and younger son Bob. Anna and Steven have sex, with Anna pretending to be under general anesthesia. Martin comes to the Murphy household for dinner; Kim seems fairly taken with him. Steven later tells Anna that Martin's father died in a car accident ten years ago, and that he has taken an interest in Martin to help him deal with his grief.
Martin returns the favor by inviting Steven to his mother's home for dinner. After the meal, Steven tries to leave, but Martin insists he watch a movie with them. Martin leaves halfway through, and his mother makes a romantic advance on Steven by complimenting his hands and then kissing and sucking them. Steven immediately rebuffs her and goes home. Over the next few days, Martin's demands on Steven's time grow increasingly frequent and desperate, but Steven does not respond. One morning, Bob wakes up and finds he cannot feel his legs; he has become paralyzed. Steven and Anna rush him to the hospital, where an examination reveals that nothing is physically wrong.
The next morning, Martin meets Steven and reveals the truth: his father did not die in the crash, but during the surgery that Steven performed after the accident. Martin explains that, to "balance" his father's death, Steven must kill a member of his own family. If he does not, Anna, Kim, and Bob will die after three stages: paralysis, self-imposed starvation, and bleeding from the eyes. Steven attempts to dismiss these claims but later finds that Bob is refusing food. Meanwhile, Martin visits Kim at the Murphys' house. She tells him that she loves him and undresses, but Martin says he has to go home and leaves. Soon after, Kim collapses during a choir rehearsal at school, her legs numb, and she becomes unwilling to eat.
Martin calls Kim at the hospital. During the conversation, she regains use of her legs, only to lose mobility again when the connection is broken. This convinces Anna that Martin has the power to follow through on his threats. She visits Martin to ask why she and her children must suffer for Steven's mistakes. Martin halfheartedly laments her concerns and claims that this is the closest thing there is to justice. Anna, suspecting that her formerly alcoholic husband might have been drinking on the day of the operation, speaks to Steven's anesthesiologist, Matthew. She asks about the surgery in which Martin's father died, pressing him for Martin's father's medical records. Matthew will not give her the file, but in exchange for Anna giving him a handjob, he reveals that Steven made an error and ingested two drinks before the surgery.
After all tests are exhausted, the hospital is still at a loss for a solution. Anna insists that the children be taken home, where they are tube-fed. Steven then kidnaps Martin, ties him up in his basement, brutally beats him, and demands that he reverse Kim's and Bob's condition. Martin warns Steven that time is running out.
Kim and Bob argue over whom their father will choose. Anna tells Steven that killing one of the children is the best option because they can have another one. Steven meets with his children's school principal and asks which of them is "best", but the principal has no answer. Kim drags herself to the basement and attempts to persuade Martin to heal her legs again so they may elope together. When unsuccessful, she attempts to save herself by crawling through the neighborhood, where Steven and Anna eventually retrieve her. As Steven disinfects her wounds, Kim tells him how much she loves her parents and her brother and volunteers to die. Later that night, Steven stares thoughtfully at his sleeping wife.
The next day, Anna releases Martin. Bob begins bleeding from the eyes, causing all to panic. Rather than choose, Steven binds Kim, Bob, and Anna with duct tape, covers their heads, and pulls a woolen hat over his own face. He loads a rifle, spins in circles, and fires recklessly. The first two shots miss, but the third kills Bob.
Some time later, the family visits the diner where Steven met with Martin; Kim has fully recovered. Martin enters and stares at them; he and the family briefly lock eyes. As the Murphys leave, Martin gazes after them, and Kim turns to look back at him.
On May 11, 2016, it was announced that Farrell had been cast in the film, with Lanthimos directing from a screenplay he wrote with Filipou. Film4 Productions and Element Pictures produced. In June 2016, Kidman was cast, and in August 2016, Silverstone, Cassidy, Camp, Keoghan, and Suljic joined.
In May 2016, A24 acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. The same month, Haut et Court acquired French rights. It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2017. Lanthimos and Filippou won the Best Screenplay award at the festival.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Killing of a Sacred Deer has an approval rating of 80% based on 279 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer continues director Yorgos Lanthimos' stubbornly idiosyncratic streak—and demonstrates again that he is a talent not to be ignored." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The Killing of a Sacred Deer was named "one of the best horror movies of the year" by Joey Keogh of Wicked Horror, who called it "horror in its purest, most distilled form, freed from the shackles of jump scares or exposition." Keogh wrote that Keoghan is the film's "ace card", giving "his best, most self-assured performance to date" as Martin, the "supremely frightening yet weirdly charismatic creation who makes even the act of eating spaghetti seem terrifying." Zhuo-Ning Su of Awards Daily wrote in 2017 that the film is "less complex than [Lanthimos's] previous work but engrosses and unsettles all the same", adding that it "palpably improves" in its second hour. While praising the cast, particularly Kidman, Su added that Keoghan "shines brightest as the plain but charismatic boy who's somehow not quite right", calling his performance "vivid" and "fully realised".
In a mixed review, Nicholas Bell of ION Cinema wrote that the "mysterious, highly metaphorical" film, which he compared to "something from the Old Testament", "finds the director getting a bit too hung up on his own idiosyncrasies." Bell also criticized Lanthimos's and Filippou's "overtly precise dialogue" which he felt "straitjacketed" the actors. But he praised the director of photography Thimios Bakatakis and the score, calling it "eerie". Bell summarized the film as "interesting, but a bit too ambiguous to remain as uncomfortably off-putting as it hopes".
In a 5-star review for Bloody Disgusting, Trace Thurman wrote that Sacred Deer would be "the most unsettling film you see this year", particularly noting Lanthimos's direction and Bakatakis's cinematography, which he said gave the film a "surreal, otherworldly quality". Thurman also praised the cast, writing that Farrell and Kidman "deliver their lines with a stilted coldness that sends chills up the spine." He called the younger actors "equally impressive, with Keoghan being the standout", noting his "eerie performance that you believe to be that of a psychopath." Also for Bloody Disgusting, Benedict Seal gave the film a one-star review, stating that it had "none of the escalating intrigue and tension" of the then-recently released The Gift and The Witch. Seal added that the film plays out "mechanically" after the reveal in the centre of the film and said the visuals were "striking at times" but became "monotonous and garish", summing up the film as "the biggest bum note yet from one of the most overrated directors in the art-house world" and "an epic embarrassment".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|AACTA International Awards||6 January 2018||Best Supporting Actress||Nicole Kidman||Nominated|||
|Cannes Film Festival||26 May 2017||Palme D'Or||Yorgos Lanthimos||Nominated|||
|Best Screenplay Award||Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou||Won|
|European Film Awards||10 December 2017||Best European Actor||Colin Farrell||Nominated|||
|Best European Director||Yorgos Lanthimos||Nominated|
|Best European Screenwriter||Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou||Nominated|
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||8 February 2018||Best Supporting Actor||Barry Keoghan||Nominated|||
|Florida Film Critics Circle||23 December 2017||Best Supporting Actor||Barry Keoghan||Nominated|||
|Ghent International Film Festival Ghent||20 October 2017||Grand Prix – Best Film||Yorgos Lanthimos||Nominated|||
|Filmfest Hamburg||14 October 2017||Sichtwechsel Film Award||Yorgos Lanthimos||Nominated|||
|Independent Spirit Awards||3 March 2018||Best Supporting Male||Barry Keoghan||Nominated|||
|Best Cinematography||Thimios Bakatakis||Nominated|
|London Film Critics Circle||January 28, 2018||British/Irish Actor of the Year||Colin Farrell (also for The Beguiled)||Nominated|||
|Seattle Film Critics Society||18 December 2017||Best Supporting Actor||Barry Keoghan||Nominated|||
|Villain of the Year||Barry Keoghan (as Martin)||Nominated|
|Sitges Film Festival||14 October 2017||Best Film||The Killing of a Sacred Deer||Nominated|||
|José Luis Guarner Critics' Award||The Killing of a Sacred Deer||Won|
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