Last updateWed, 10 Oct 2018 4pm


The Killing of a Sacred Deer Doesn't Disappoint

Imagine living the perfect childhood. You have it all: a big house, wealthy parents, any item desired, and above all, great health. However, one morning it all comes crashing down. You wake up for school and cannot get out of bed. It’s not because of a big exam you didn’t prepare for or meatloaf day at the cafeteria.

You toss and turn, frantically look around the room, and your heart is racing. You cannot move because your legs are numb. Your father keeps yelling at you to get a move on, but with all of your strength, your legs are paralyzed.

Why after so many years of perfect health that suddenly your torso completely shuts down? Is it because of some bug bite, or a serious health issue? Maybe it’s hereditary and your parents never mentioned it.

 The doctors deny each one of these questions and cannot figure out how this happened. With your condition out of the doctors’ hands, maybe it’s the act of some higher power.

But what if that higher power is physically in your presence? This is the situation Dr. Steve Murphy finds his family in.

A few years ago, Dr. Murphy, played by Colin Farrell, was intoxicated and performed open heart surgery on a car accident victim. The victim died because of Murphy’s careless practices, leaving a son and wife behind.

Out of pity, Dr. Murphy attempts to be a father figure to Martin, played by Barry Keoghan, the son of the deceased. As he uncovers the truth behind his father’s death, Martin seeks revenge.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest arthouse film serves as a creepy modern day interpretation of Euripides’ Ancient Greek tragedy Iphigenia in Aulis with its perplexing story and characters. However, the script is laughable and its score is obnoxious.

The weight of Lanthimos’ work is heavy with religious allegories. Borrowing from Euripides, the story of Iphigenia is one interpretation of the plot.

Iphigenia’s tragic story begins with her father, Greek hero Agamemnon, who could not sail for the battle of Troy because the goddess Artemis stopped the winds.

To appease the goddess, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter for his troops to go on with the important battle, a Killing of a Sacred Deer, if you will. Dr. Murphy is similar to Agamemnon with the health conditions his family faces.

 Just as the winds stopped for Agamemnon, Murphy’s children don’t have the strength to move. This is why we pay attention in EN-201.

Another interpretation of Lanthimos’ film involves religion, with Martin representing God and the power of karma.

When Dr. Murphy runs into challenges, Martin can either make matters better or worse. Dr. Murphy’s conflict simply shows, “what goes around, comes around.” Although Dr. Murphy’s situation is terrible, it’s hard to feel for the cardiologist with an empty heart.

In Dr. Murphy’s opening scene, he removes his bloodied white gloves after open heart surgery. This symbolizes the doctor’s clean slate. To make up for his past, Murphy creates time for the accident victim’s son he left behind.

However, Murphy’s time with Martin feels more like a nuisance to the doctor, considering his lack of care to the time they spend and the ill intent behind their meetings.

Murphy might be the lowest type of person who boozes during medical practices and finds it a drag to be with Martin, but he shares one thing in common with all the characters: a monotone voice.

To capture the perfect world, Lanthimos chooses for each character to speak in a perfectly monotone voice. Despite their voice tone relating closely to the environment, it can feel exhausting quick. The script, co-written by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou is especially ridiculous with the deliveries in monotone. Some of the lines are strikingly out of place that they are laughable.

For example, when his son cannot walk, Dr. Murphy demands, “If you don’t stop playing games, I will shave your head and make you eat your hair. I mean it. I will make you eat your hair.”

Later, Dr. Murphy laughingly attempts to shove a doughnut in his son’s mouth, proclaiming that he must he a half dozen in five minutes.

Additional wacky lines come from Martin when he aggressively eats his spaghetti as he proclaims how similar his eating styles are to his father. I’m a huge fan of Guy Fieri’s Old Skool Pasta Sauce on my spaghetti, but I would never indulge on the delight in Martin’s unhinged fashion.

There is a deep story Lanthimos tries to tell, but some of the characters actions are baffling and throw off the eeriness this film could portray.

While the script is off kilter, so is the score picked by music supervisors Sarah Giles and Nick Payne. The film begins with a black screen as the overbearing score sounds like a gladiator entering the Colosseum.

The beginning and closing pieces grip the viewers’ attention with epic opera singers and a full piece orchestra rocking the theater. However, the score can feel annoying in moments of suspense. 

Suspenseful moments are scored with a piercing violin, which may drive one to put their hands over ears. Additionally, there is a special score for Martin’s presence. This part of the score sounds like when someone goes to a physical and they take a hearing test. When Martin was on the screen, I found myself raising my left and right hands. At least I will be prepared in May.

Even though one may score perfectly on their hearing examination during the experience, this art house feature by Yorgos Lanthimos is far from it.

There is a profound story by reinterpreting Iphigenia in Aulis and it is interesting to see a modern spin on the Ancient Greek tragedy. However, its script overreaches and the score is painful.

Is this worth the sacrifice of precious time? Yes, if one is interested in art house cinema.

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151