October 27, 2017

R: November 3rd, 2017 | R: 116 minutes | R: R

Just in time for Halloween comes a horror film unlike any other “Halloween” movies. The Killing of a Sacred Deer dodges the usual ghosts, vampires, and witches. Instead, we are given a psychological thriller designed to disgust and shock. A film unlike any you’ve ever seen, for many, it may be a film that you never want to see.

In a seemingly normal suburban town, a surgeon introduces a teenage boy he has been mentoring to his family. Although things appear perfectly average, something about it all just seems a little off. A secret begins to rip a family apart as they all succumb to an illness that slowly transmits to each member of the family. The surgeon is presented with a solution to end the suffering, but it comes in the form of an impossible decision that takes him to the edge of sanity.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is like a train wreck that you can’t turn away from. From start to finish, there are several disturbing scenes that often beg the question, “do I just not get this?” The opening scene displays a seemingly never ending closeup of open-heart surgery that does not shy away from censoring any of its gory images. And that scene sets the stage for the remainder of the movie. From some uncomfortably detailed stories about the main character’s childhood memories to a scene with his wife attempting to investigate her husband’s past, there were several moments that felt so disturbingly out of place. Yet this was the intention of the filmmaker. The movie mixes a feverish nightmare and an intense moral conundrum and takes them to their extremes. It turns the heat up to boiling and forces you to confront and consider some truly terrifying scenarios. Yet some of the meaning from these intense quandaries gets lost in how absurd and in-your- face some of the film’s scenes are. On top of it, the deadpan dialogue meant to shed a light on upper-class suburbia felt too arthouse and often pulled me out of the film.

Yet underneath some of its more disturbing scenes, The Killing of the Sacred Deer nails the drawn-out horror it seeks to evoke. The movie is perfectly unnerving and is one of the most terrifying movies made. With a distinct lack of gore or jump scares; the music, the atmosphere, and the plot bewilder the viewer and confronts them with terrifying questions with no way forward other than to completely explore and deal with our own thoughts. The entire movie slowly boils up the horror, with a gradual escalation that instills a true sense of dread. Every scene is artfully designed to make the viewer uncomfortable, with claustrophobic shots that are consistently just a little too close to the actors than comfortable. The imagery of watching these characters crawl through their house is like something out of a nightmare. And the way the characters slowly accept their fate and how the film fully embraces its concept is overwhelming. Throughout the entire movie, I kept hoping for relief and I just couldn’t believe that it would follow its exaggerated and outlandish premise to its conclusion. The movie offers little explanation, but the plot and the characters fully embrace its premise and does not shy away from fully exploring its themes which makes it all the more terrifying. Which makes The Killing of a Sacred Deer an excellent horror movie. Not because of blood or jump scares, but because it makes us confront uncomfortable ideas that we would rather not consider. It is truly an unsettling and horrific thought experiment masterfully crafted to shock and disturb.

Somewhere in here is a truly terrific film. It is absolutely terrifying and thrilling. It is a film that will certainly make you think and is not afraid of forcing its audience to confront uncomfortable questions and exposing us to some truly shocking scenarios. It lingers in the mind long after viewing. But many aspects of the movie get in the way of itself, instead coming across as a pretentious arthouse film. Many of the scenes seem solely inserted for their shock value and distract from the heart of the film. The Killing of the Sacred Deer is most certainly not a film for the masses and, for some, may offend rather than inspire.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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