The surgically controlled madness of Yorgos Lanthimos’ method can be punishing. Over the last few years, the Greek auteur has rapidly established himself as a meticulous modulator of corrosively absurd scenarios. Squirmy and side-splitting in equal measure, his last film (The Lobster) imagined a dystopian future where single people unable to find soul mates are turned into animals. This singularly demented vision carries through to The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a film that isn’t as conceptually daring, but no less confrontational, perplexing and deliberate. If Kubrick ever wanted to skewer and roast suburban complacency via tragic Greek mythos and eye-for-an-eye stalker-revenge tropes, it’s possible that might’ve ended up something like this.
It’s a pulverising psychological quagmire, told with Lanthimos’ masterfully-honed deadpan severity. The expertly flat line deliveries, looming, wide-angle camerawork and stabby dissonant orchestral score all serve to unnerve the viewer. Add to that scenes of impromptu armpit hair inspection, partially paralyzed children either bleeding from the eyes or at the knees, and Alicia Silverstone sucking Colin Farrell’s hand over a viewing of Groundhog Day, and you have one uniquely unhinged experience. Lanthimos could probably coast a bit next time out, but I’m thankful he ventured all the way into the deep end for this. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the most chilling, and grimly amusing, horror movie of the year. And given the foul state of affairs around the world at the moment, I found its grinding pessimism oddly cathartic.