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

sacred-deer

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…

 

Before I Go To Sleep (DVD Review)

Poster for the filmIt is amazing to think that the first thing I ever saw Colin Firth in was a 1985 made for TV film called Dutch Girls. Equally amazing is that the one actor who completely blew me away in this London Weekend Television production was actor Timothy Spall and not Firth. The next feature I saw Firth in, he played a murderous maniac. The film was Apartment Zero. The DVD was picked up for a song in a shop in Cornwall whilst on holiday and “Mr. Darcy” became a firm favorite from that moment on. Now, in Before I Go To Sleep, Firth plays opposite Nicole Kidman and he comes dangerously close to stealing the show.

This was another film that was missed when it opened in cinemas last year. Presumably the film did not perform up to expectations and it was not showing at a lot of theaters in Vegas. Watching the DVD, it is hard to see just why it was received so poorly. Granted, there are a few plot holes but not having read the S.J. Watson novel the film is based upon these were not so glaringly obvious that they destroyed the film.

The film is about 40 year old Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) who is an amnesiac that, after she goes to sleep, forgets everything. Where she is, who she is and so on. Her husband, Ben (Colin Firth) looks after her and leaves notes and directions scattered throughout their home to help his wife cope. Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) is a neuro-psychologist who is attempting to help Christine recover her missing memories.

According to her husband, Christine lost her memories after a horrific car accident. Nasch says that she was found naked and badly beaten. The whole film keeps the audience wondering, along with Kidman’s character, whom to believe. As pointed out, in the book’s reviews, the original tale was a clever mixture of everyday events blended with a surreal amount of tension and fear.

The film, directed by Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later, The American), who also wrote the screenplay, does a good job keeping at keeping the viewer guessing. Kidman delivers in the film and her performance, along with Strong’s and Firth’s is top notch.

It is hard to understand why the film got such mixed reviews when it opened. This English thriller hits all the right notes and while it does not revel in its Englishness, the film could have been set anywhere, it does add a certain something to the events. It may well be that the movie was too clever for many to see the adroit way that the puzzle is trotted out for the audience.

Another problem could be the short-term amnesia plot device. Certainly it has been done before, Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Momento, where Guy Pearce knocked it out of the park with the mystery thriller and then Adam Sandler, along with Drew Barrymore, who played the whole thing for laughs with 50 First Dates in 2004.

It is nice to see Kidman shunning the glamorous look while playing a woman trying so desperately to remember her past. The film keeps the twists and turns coming as each new bit of information just raises more questions. By the time the film ends, the viewer doesn’t trust anyone at all.

The cinematography, which is brilliant, and the lighting combine to give the action a deliberately murky look and feel. This is a delightful gem of a film well worth watching, if for no other reason than for Kidman and Firth’s interaction. The addition of Mark Strong, proves once again that the Brits really do corner the market in the world of acting.

Available on Redbox and other video streaming services along with Amazon, et al, Before I Go To Sleep is a real 4 out of 5 star film. A cracking movie that will keep you guessing until the climax.

Nicole Kidman Sexy Texting Makes Keith Urban Blush

Nicole Kidman Sexy Texting Makes Keith Urban Blush

Nicole Kidman has been talking about her relationship with Keith Urban and how different it is from her marriage to Tom Cruise. Urban has been talking about how he and Nicole keep their long distance relationship working. Apparently the secret is sexy texting, although admitting it made Urban blush.

Sandra Bullock George Clooney and Her Disappearing Dress

Sandra Bullock George Clooney and Her Disappearing Dress

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney worked together in the new film Gravity. The two are close friends and have known each other for years. So many years that, as Bullock said to Tonight Show host Jay Leno, that they have started taking years off.

Nicole Kidman: Marmalade, Paparazzi and Money

Nicole Kidman: Marmalade, Paparazzi and Money