The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

An expertly crafted exercise in dread, a nightmare, an uneasy, formal affair, where the cast delivers their hilariously offbeat dialogue so absurdly flatly they almost sound like creatures failing to mimic human behaviour. The film pulses with black comedy in that way, as director Yorgos Lanthimos continues the expert control of tone he deployed in his last film (”The Lobster”, also with Colin Farrel in the lead role) as well.

Lanthimos’ style is so restrained, never overplaying his hand, always trusting the audience. Clearly there was a lot of thought put into framing, angles, use of negative space, and the restrained style Lanthimos shoots so much of the film in really shows off the excellent, offbeat performances of the cast (as well as the set design for certain scenes). The use of slow zooms pared really well with the mounting atmosphere of dread the film cultivates.

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The completely deadpan acting seems like an odd choice but it’s executed with such precision, and marries so well with the morality tale nature of the narrative (pulling from Greek mythology) in a way that offsets the film ever feeling too contrived or over-the-top. When things go more literal towards the end, the film’s control over the viewer fades a little, just as a punchline ends a joke (and the film is so prone to inciting nervous laughter as it mounts up so much dread that demands some release), and the film’s concerns are more hollow than the more relatable themes of “The Lobster”, but everything is carried out with such skill that it’s a magnificent experience in any case. Four watches, and some fries.

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