The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Replicants in Blade Runner exhibit a broader range of emotions than either Colin Farrell or Nicole Kidman in The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

The duo, who portray married physicians, exchange blunted discourses like they’ve been popping psychotropics.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) gives us boudoir foreplay that includes mock anesthesia, because…DOCTORS.

It’s of course, all in the name of Art House cinema with a capital A.

The only thing missing is gazing forlornly into the distance to discordant keyboard strikes.

A young teen Martin, whose father died on the operating table under the watch of Dr Murphy (Farrell) is looking for redress, in the form of an eye for an eye: unless Murphy kills a member of his own family, Martin is going to do it for him, poisoning the whole clan. At first, Farrell doesn’t believe the blackmailer until the physical symptoms Martin predicts, come to pass. This includes paralysis, which, if it were to have happened to the Kidman or Farrell characters, would’ve gone unnoticed at least as far as their facial expressions are concerned. They need to be slapped awake they’re so emotionally distant and lacking in urgency.

Lanthimos expects an audience to buy into a revenge poisoning conceit, with protagonists who perhaps are early advocates to defund the police, so unwilling are they to involve the boys in blue with their affairs. Instead, all they do is run test after test after test. How about an MRI, what about a PET scan? How about a second opinion?

It’s a nagging, stupid, moronic plot detail that drapes a pall over the proceedings.

As willfully alienating and offputting as any movie you’ll ever see, The Killing of a Sacred Deer wastes beautiful camerawork, gorgeous music by Bach and Schubert and an interesting gimmick, not to mention a killer (literally) performance by Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as the sociopathic kid.

Still, it does bring the goods with some incredibly disturbing set-pieces, including of all things, someone wolfing down spaghetti, and a side-by-side armpit hair comparison. And it’s worth giving it a hand for something else as well, no spoilers here.

*** (out of 5)

[check out The Killing of a Sacred Deer podcast discussion)

Beneath

Not to be confused with What Lies Beneath, the Zemeckis-directed supernatural horror starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, Beneath is a killer catfish movie (which also explores what lies beneath, or as the tagline says the terror that “lies just below the surface.”) But is it a killer, comma, catfish movie?

Who knows? It’s not exactly a large pool to draw from. Catfish is pretty sui generis stuff.

A bunch of high school seniors gather for one last blowout before college, as surefire a way to bring about their sudden demise as a cop with 2 weeks to go before his retirement contemplating a seaside vacation before he’s filled full of lead.

Despite warnings from a crotchedy old man (Mark Margolis, the human IED from Breaking Bad, spoiler alert) the teens in Beneath venture forth, as this is a horror movie and to do otherwise would bring the proceedings to a grinding halt. Soon, the catfish, a creature unbeatable when paired with paprikash and dill and served straight out of the Danube in Budapest, begins to fairly convincingly terrorize the boaters, one member of whom receives a fatal bite.

Director Larry Fessenden (Wendigo) keeps things chugging along and as the vessel begins to take on water, the surviving crew members (including bickering siblings) resort to justifying why they should not be sacrificed to the beast and thrown overboard to save the greater good. That differentiates it somewhat from its natural horror brethren.

Fessenden has said that boogey men don’t have backstories (or really need them), and unlike other killer fish movies like the iconic Piranha, Beneath contains no “save the whales” messaging or politicians hosting business-as-usual regattas when swimmers start disappearing from their beaches.

Unfairly maligned, this one is actually quite well shot with an indie sensibility and some choice lines coming at the expense of one member of the party, a wannabe director.

*** (out of 5)