By Anthony Wetmore
The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the latest from director and screenwriter Yorgos Lanthimos, truly reveals his precise focus on the use of tension as a method of terror.
Known best for Dogtooth and more recently The Lobster, Lanthimos sets forth his simplest and nastiest tale to date. In utilizing tight emotionally absent dialogue, a looming whine of a score and the extraordinary made ordinary, his most useful narrative tool to tell the curious and tragic tale of Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell).
A cardiovascular surgeon by trade, Steven enjoys a comfortable suburban life with his picture perfect family. Anna, his wife, as well as Bob and Kim their two children share a household of fragile function; the exchange of any conversation no matter the topic seeming to bubble under the surface adding yet another depth of worry and dread to the already very dense atmosphere.
The introduction of Martin, a young man with dreams of being a surgeon himself, made at the very start of the film, is where things spiral in perfect chaotic fashion out of control for the Murphy’s. The past dictates the future in this twisted retelling of the story of Iphigenia; Martin rises above and clouds the home, bringing all sorts of terror and sickness.
We often take horror films on a base level, processing garish gore, violent screaming and taking from it a lesson, a metaphor or an allegory. With The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the allegory does not come from buckets of blood and viscera, though there is a fair share of it. The overall terror planted into the chest comes first from the questions it raises, and then once again with the answers.