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)

The Mist

Interesting fact: “Mist” in German, means “crap.” Luckily, unlike many a Stephen King adaptation, this one is anything but.

The Mist is a loving tribute to the 60s creature feature, with Frank Darabount (who directed the King-lyThe Green Mile/The Shawshank Redemption) helming a character-driven insider-outsider dynamic set in Maine (of course) against the backdrop of a grocery store, of all places.

Clean up in aisle 3!

While the tentacles in the promotional collateral betray a more nautical feel, it’s actually Lovecraftian pterodactyl thing-ies that scare the bejeezus out of the townsfolk (some of them, that is. There’s a fire and brimstone preacher lady, played by Marcia Gay Harden, who won’t be swayed and is determined to usher in Armageddon).

The plot is full-on 60s sci fi: not only are there weird and wonderful creatures, there is a strange and secret military experiment being conducted. Camo trucks are driving through town by the dozens. What in god’s name is going on? This is compounded by a strange and bizarre, not to mention scary, weather system, enough to make Al Roker crap his pants (Google that and “White House” if you want some unpleasant reading).

The system is hiding the aforementioned creatures, and dueling groups of townsfolk hunker down in the store, using their wits to do battle with one another, and the creatures, who reproduce themselves by bursting forth smaller creatures from human cocoon cavities, a la Alien. Grossly good stuff.

Toby Jones is once again excellent as the grocery manager, and unlikely hero, along with the more stoic doting dad Thomas Jane. Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is well-cast in the thankless role of resident skeptic/creature luncheon meat.

Stephen King’s vision is both cynical and revelatory, taking potshots at pomo and religious thinking alike.

The Mist, however, has an ending that is seriously downbeat, and would be even by the very dour 70s. Some viewers take umbrage with what they see as a narrative cop out, but it actually adds to the gritty nihilism not too dissimilar from Night of the Living Dead.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast of The Mist]