Sinister charm in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Colin Farrell (left) and Barry Keoghan star in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.
Colin Farrell (left) and Barry Keoghan star in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.PHOTO: ANTICIPATE PICTURES

Irish actor Barry Keoghan is brilliantly nonchalant in a scary role

REVIEW / DRAMA HORROR

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (M18)

121 minutes

Opens today at The Arts House

4 stars

The story: Heart surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) seems to have taken a fatherly interest in teenager Martin (Barry Keoghan). The young man is fixated on Murphy, his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), teenage daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and young son Bob (Sunny Suljic). As Martin's behaviour grows more odd, Murphy breaks off the relationship, but his decision carries an otherworldly penalty.


A price of biblical proportions has to be paid in the otherwise placid world of American suburbia - it's a place of McMansions, soccer mums and choral practice, not quite the spot for the ritualistic redress of past sins.

That juxtaposition of the mundane and the mythic is constantly at play in this movie - winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival and nominee for the top prize of the Palme d'Or for director and co-screenwriter Yorgos Lanthimos.

The idea of lore - an old, immutable force of nature that cannot be reasoned with and which erupts into the present day - is a favourite of Lanthimos. He used something similar in his prize-winning drama-comedy The Lobster (2015, also starring Farrell) and breakthrough Greek-language project, the more explicitly horrific Dogtooth (2009), a coming-of-age story.

  • BOOK IT / THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

  • WHERE: The Arts House, Screening Room, 1 Old Parliament Lane

    WHEN: Today to Jan 14, various times

    ADMISSION: $13.50

    INFO: For bookings and schedule, go to sacreddeer.peatix.com

To be a bit more precious about it, Lanthimos is exploring the power of storytelling, asking whether the things people believe in are true because they are objectively so or whether they become true only after people believe them to be so.

It's a question with serious consequences for the Murphy family. They are in the grip of a tale spun by Martin, a teen who is as sweet as he is creepy.

Martin is played with fabulous nonchalance by Irish actor Keoghan in a breakout performance.

Keoghan's charm was in full effect in the role of George, the ill-fated deckhand in Christopher Nolan's war film Dunkirk (2017). The same affability can be found here. In a flash, it might melt into something more sinister.

Keoghan delivers the scariest monologue in recent memory while shovelling spaghetti into his gravy-stained mouth.

Is Martin more frightening because of the sloppy strands hanging from his lips or in spite of it? Whatever, but it is an image that is both absurd and disturbing, neatly summing up the film's nightmarish power.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline 'A nightmare of sinister charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe