The Killing of a Sacred Deer(2017): Stilted and Wooden Horror (Review)

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While the story of The Killing of a Sacred Deer is interesting and different, the execution leaves much to be desired. Leaden acting, wooden dialogue and line deliveries that feel stilted all make this odd horror film feel fake and throws one out of the tale being told.

Colin Farrell appears to be sleepwalking through his role as a surgeon whose drunken mistake costs a man his life. Despite speaking in his “native tongue” the Irish actor  comes across as disinterested, bland and disaffected.  The entire cast, with the exception of Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone suffer from the lackluster delivery that writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos seems to expect in his films. 

In The Lobster (Another Farrell vehicle.) the dialogue was equally unenthusiastic but with the surrealistic setting and theme it almost fit. Here, in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, it serves to take the viewer out of the film and it destroys whatever ambiance is needed to sell the horror of the situation.

The film shows young Martin (Irish actor Barry Keoghan) insinuating himself into Dr. Murphy’s life. Murphy accepts the young man  and introduces him to his wife Anna (Kidman), daughter Kim and his son Bob. In return, Murphy is introduced to Martin’s mum, the widow of the man that Murphy  killed.

(Alicia Silverstone plays the disturbed and somewhat twitchy woman in a delicious cameo performance that outshines everyone else in the film.)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer could have been a masterpiece. The setting, the use of discordant music and an interesting plot could have worked brilliantly had the performances not taken away from the film. Lanthimos destroys whatever affect the weirdness of the tale could have had by having his actors throw the viewer out of any disturbing moments.

The characters themselves do not appeal either. Kidman’s Anna is self serving and cold. The surgeon appears to lack any sort of feeling and their kids are  unlikeable. To be fair this is down more to the delivery of their lines rather than any particular shortcomings of the script.

We never learn too much about Murphy or his family before Martin starts his attack. For example, there is no reason given for his insistence that his wife lay stock still during sex and we are reluctantly given the backstory between the surgeon and Martin.

The film shambles along with too little information and not enough time spent on the two main characters. Interaction between Martin and the Murphy family follows the same wooden direction as the dialogue and we never buy into any of the emotions, or the lack thereof,  being shared with the audience.

When things start going wrong with Murphy’s children we literally do not care. Neither child comes across well like their father they suffer from a lack of emotion or nuance in any of their lines. It is as if removing anything remotely resembling a personality was top priority of the director.

The fact that Silverstone, in her “blink and you’ll miss it cameo,” comes out head and shoulders above the rest of the cast makes one wonder if Lanthimos allowed someone else to helm the picture that day.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer could have been a 5 star effort. Instead it is a dull and shambolic attempt at psychological horror that fails abysmally. Give this one a miss…

 

The Lobster (2016): Black Comedy Served With Surrealism (Review)

Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell in The Lobster

Co-written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Efthymis Filippou was the other scribe on the film) The Lobster is a futuristic black comedy served up with a huge dose of surrealism. The film feels quite literally like the love child of Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson while any other members of the Monty Python gang could be the godparents. 

The film is quite literally the oddest thing out there at the moment.  Set in some point in the near future, the world inhabited by Farrell’s character, and a slew of other brilliant actors, is clearly dystopian.  In many ways Lanthimos and Filippou seem to be forecasting a world gone mad, one more concerned with control rather than passion.

Farrell’s character; David, falls out of a relationship and is sent to a hotel where occupants have a certain amount of time to find a life partner. Society is advanced enough to recognize the need to have two categories. Homosexual and heterosexual, although the bisexual one was removed in the distant past.

For a film to start with a voice over (by Rachel Weisz) and a blonde woman driving to a field with two donkeys, only to get out and shoot one dead, means that this feature is going to be very different and eclectic.

We learn quite quickly that the people at the hotel must find a mate within  a specific time period or they well be turned into an animal of their choice.  There are odd rules that must be obeyed and certain traditions must be followed.

Masturbation, for example, is forbidden. Yet before each “hunt,” where the guests go after loners with tranquilizer dart guns, David is gently manipulated to orgasm by a hotel maid. She rubs her bum against his crotch, a practice that Davids insists is horrible.

Each single person must hunt for a “match.” In each instance of mutual attraction, the couple must have something in common. For example, later, in the woods, David learns finds that he and the short sighted woman (near sighted) – played by Weisz – share this feature making them the perfect couple.

However, in the woods, there are also rules. Stiff and inflexible ones that result in horrible punishments if broken. Each “loner” is forced to dig their own grave, for occupation later, and they are not allowed to kiss or have sex with other loners.

This odd future world seems to be inhabited with self satisfying and simple people who do not have the ability to think abstractly. The world is full of sheep who are easily led by whomever is in charge.

While becoming a couple is the pinnacle of achievement, and necessary to prevent being turned into a horse or, as the title implies, a lobster (David’s choice.) people who are together are still self serving.

In one scene between the couple who run the hotel and the leader of the loners, played by Léa Seydoux, the leader works to sabotage the couple’s relationship.  

The message of the film appears to be that in the future, no one will be allowed to do as they wish. Everyone is controlled by one faction or another and failure to comply either equals death or transmutation into an animal.

The film is funny. John C. Reilly plays a character with a lisp. At one point three friends get into a argument and another character tells the Reilly’s character that whatever animal he become will have a lisp.

After the donkey murder at the start, Farrell’s character is checked into the hotel. He is asked what animal he would like to be if he fails to find a mate. He says lobster. Olivia Colman, the hotel managers congratulates David on his choice. “Nearly everyone,” she tells him, “chooses to be a dog. That’s why there are so many of them.”

Each character in The Lobster speak as if they are not used to doing so. The lines and dialogues between the people in the film feels stilted and unnatural. One gets the impression that the inhabitants of this world are not the sharpest tools in the shed at all.

Their needs are quite basic and their emotions follow suit. This world is quirky, unintelligent and slow.  The pace of the film is snail-like making the almost two hour film feel much, much longer. As interesting as the story is, the movie could have easily lost over a half hour.

Out of the all the cast, several were more than outstanding with their interpretation of their parts.  If there were any real complaint it would be that the brilliantly natural Michael Smiley was definitely under-used.

The film belonged to Farrell, who, after gaining around 40 pounds,  looked oddly like Kevin Kline especially with his mustache and glasses, Weisz and Seydoux, who is so sullenly and fiercely beautiful she takes one’s breath away. Ariane Labed, as the maid, is gloriously sexy in her role while maintaining  a certain ambiguity.

The Lobster suffers from a very confusing  open ended climax. Things are left hanging and one has to interpret their own definition of what happens as the screen fades to black.

Shot entirely in Ireland, the film’s countryside settings are luscious and wild.  The cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis is stunning all the more so because the unit used natural light and no makeup.

The Lobster is a clear 4.5 star film. The movie intrigues while it entertains and offers enough fragmentary confusion and surreal situations that the film’s makers could be successors to Gilliam and Anderson.  An eccentric treat with a splendid cast, this is one that should not be missed.

Sharon Osbourne Vagina Operation Excruciating but Ozzy Loved It

Sharon Osbourne Vagina Operation Excruciating but Ozzy Loved It

Sharon Osbourne spoke about her vagina operation on British television and revealed that it was excruciating but Ozzy loved it. The 61 year-old “jack of all trades” in the entertainment industry, and wife of Ozzy Osbourne, was on the popular Graham Norton Show on BBC One where she spoke candidly about all the cosmetic surgery she’s had over the years.

Seven Psychopaths (2012): Six Not Seven

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Written and directed by Martin McDonagh Seven Psychopaths has a pretty hefty cast list; a wandering storyline and has six, not seven psycho’s in it. I only mention it because a third of the way through the film, it is somewhat obliquely mentioned.

The Cast:

Michael Pitt
Larry
Michael Stuhlbarg
Tommy
Sam Rockwell
Colin Farrell
Abbie Cornish
Kaya
Christopher Walken
Helena Mattsson
Blonde Lady
Linda Bright Clay
Myra
Harry Dean Stanton
Man in Hat
James Landry Hébert
Killer (as James Hébert)
Christopher Gehrman
Cellmate
Christian Barillas
Catholic Priest
Joseph Lyle Taylor
Al
Kevin Corrigan
Dennis
Woody Harrelson

Like I said the cast list is pretty damned impressive. And while I am not a huge Colin Farrell fan, I did enjoy his performance in this film.

Now, about the plot and the storyline; It is, at best, a little eclectic and esoteric. It follows the everyday interactions between Colin Farrell’s character who writes for a living. Marty’s best friend is Billy (Rockwell) who is a psychopath who kidnaps dogs to sell back to their owners with the aid of Hans (Walken).

Throughout the film there is a red hooded person who is “capping” mid level mafioso thugs and leaving a jack of cards on the bodies to show that they’ve been assassinated by the jack; presumably this “calling card” is sending some type of message.

Meanwhile back at the ranch,  Marty is struggling to write his latest screenplay about, seven psychopaths. But Marty doesn’t want this to be a standard blood, guts and gore shoot-em-up, he wants all his psycho’s to be pacifists.

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Woody Harrelson plays Charlie another psychopath who is a mafia kingpin and who just happens to be devoted to his shitzu, Bonnie. Of course Billy kidnaps Bonnie and the whole film’s violence level increases.

I can’t really reveal any more or I’ll be seriously spoiling a lot of the film. But I can honestly say that after watching it, I felt ambiguous about it. I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not.

The film looks good. It amuses in parts and disturbs in others, but in neither instance does the film overwhelm or overly impress. My two favourite characters were Hans and Marty (which says a lot as I don’t really care for Farrell as I said before) but Rockwell as Billy did entertain…a little; which also says something as I adore Rockwell in almost everything I see him in.

I believe that this is one that I may have to watch a couple of times to see if I missed something. Because at the end of the film I was left feeling like I had missed something.

Either that, or, they left something out.

A 3 out of 5 stars just for the cast alone…and for the flare gun.

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