M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2017 and going through September 30, 2018. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on August 24, 2018. Available on Blu-ray/DVD, On Demand, and digital download from Artisan/Lionsgate Entertainment! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Alicia Silverstone, Barry G. Bernson, Herb Caillouet, Bill Camp, Raffey Cassidy, Denise Dal Vera, Drew Logan, Sunny Suljic
While this star studded thriller/drama might not be your typical horror flick, it is one of the most horrifying films I’ve ever seen. I reviewed DOGTOOTH, Yorgos Lanthimos first film, in 2010 and while, the director has evolved and gone Hollywood since then, the chilling and disturbing dissection of the family is a subject that he seems to return to again and again. Reminiscent of Alex van Warmerdam’s bizarre BORGMAN with a touch of BEING THERE and FUNNY GAMES, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is a story of the absolute decimation of what looks to be a typical modern family.
Barry Keoghan plays Martin, a soft spoken and oddly distant young man whose father died in surgery while Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) was operating on him. Feeling bad for the lost young man, Steven forms a bond with Martin in hopes to make up for not being able to save him. But as the story goes on, Martin begins to needle his way into the Murphy family consisting of older sister Kim (Raffey Cassidy), younger brother Bob (Sunny Suljic) and mother Anna (Nicole Kidman). At first, Martin’s odd mannerisms charm the family, but soon it is made clear that Martin has dark designs for Steven’s family that involve tearing them into little pieces.
While Martin’s intentions are vengeful, Keoghan plays things very subtle in this nuanced performance. Keoghan makes it seem like he may be at worst mentally challenged and at best socially awkward, but still too dim witted to pull off such a game of cat and mouse with the esteemed doctor. This is how Martin is able to sneak in and strike as Farrell’s Steven underestimates Martin’s every move. While he has a creeping feeling that Martin’s behavior is off, it’s not until it is too late before Steven realizes just how evil Martin truly is. What results is an emotionally gory film that hardly depicts a moment of violence. The dominoes are well set and done so long before Martin enters the Murphy home and by the time he shows his hand, there really is nothing the Murphy’s can do to save themselves. What’s left is a devastated husk where a family once was and Lanthimos, who is known for his odd families, tells his tale in the most excruciatingly human of ways here. While Lanthimos is often standoffish and displays his film’s players from a distance, really gets in close and personal in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, making this one of his most effective films to date.
Keoghan stands on his own playing off of the much more charismatic Farrell and the gorgeous and sly Kidman. One might think playing against two wizened actors might be intimidating, but you can’t smell even a whiff of that in Keoghan’s layered performance. Farrell goes against type here and plays a restrained character, doubting his own instincts and questioning the urges to fight back. At the same time, Kidman offers up a brave performance dealing with pitch black subject matter and stopping at nothing to save her family. In the end, all of the performances are what make this dark game play out so exquisitely.
While there are plenty of gory and spine-tingly films in this countdown, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER stands out as it is utterly unconventional. The horror in THE KILLLING OF THE SACRED DEER is invisible. It’s in the interaction between the cast and the power of suggestion and threat. There are moments that seem weird simply for the sake of being weird, but it is all about Martin and his twisted plan to worm his way into Murphy’s life. And Lanthimos orchestrates it all with an eye for beauty in what may seem to be mundane at first glance. By the end, you feel as if you’ve witnessed the most heinous of atrocities. Lanthimos seems to be getting better with every film he makes and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is one of his most deceptively macabre films to date.
THE 2017-2018 COUNTDOWN!
#14 – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
#15 – LET HER OUT
#16 – FOUND FOOTAGE 3D
#17 – DOWNRANGE
#18 – BLACK HOLLOW CAGE
#19 – HAPPY DEATH DAY
#20 – MOM & DAD
#21 – THE LANDING
#22 – TONIGHT SHE COMES
#23 – THE RITUAL
#24 – THE BABYSITTER
#25 – MARROWBONE
#26 – BETTER WATCH OUT
#27 – THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
#28 – BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
#29 – PYEWACKET
#30 – TERRIFIER
#31 – MAYHEM
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
Interested in advertising on MLMILLERWRITES? Feel free to contact me here and we can talk turkey!
Don’t forget to share, like, and come back tomorrow for more reviews!