After the untimely death of 16-year-old Martin’s father on the operating table, little by little, a deep and empathetic bond begins to form between him and the respected cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Steven Murphy. At first, expensive gifts and then an invitation for dinner will soon earn the orphaned teenager the approval of Dr Steven’s perfect family, even though right from the start, a vague, yet unnerving feeling overshadows Martin’s honest intent.
And then, unexpectedly, the idyllic family is smitten by a fierce and pitiless punishment, while at the same time, everything will start falling apart as the innocents have to suffer. In the end, as the sins of one burden the entire family, only an unimaginable and unendurable decision that demands a pure sacrifice can purge the soul. But to find catharsis, one must first admit the sin.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a 2017 psychological horror film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, from a screenplay by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou. It stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, and Bill Camp. The story is based on the ancient Greek play Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The film was theatrically released in the United States on October 20, 2017, by A24, and in the United Kingdom and Ireland on November 3, 2017, by Curzon Artificial Eye. It has received positive reviews, and grossed $4 million worldwide.
About the Story
Steven Murphy, a skilled cardiothoracic surgeon, finishes an open heart surgery, and later goes to a diner where he meets a teenage boy named Martin. The precise nature of their relationship is unexplained. Afterward, Steven returns home to his wife, Anna, and their children, Kim and Bob. The next day, Steven reveals his connection to Martin, claiming he is a schoolmate of Kim’s, when Martin unexpectedly comes to speak with Steven at the hospital. Steven later privately tells Anna that Martin’s father died in a car accident ten years earlier, and that he has taken an interest in the boy to help him grieve. At Steven’s suggestion, Martin comes to the Murphy household for dinner; Kim seems particularly taken with him.
Martin returns the favor by inviting Steven to his mother’s home for dinner. After the meal, Steven attempts to leave, but Martin insists he stay and watch a movie with them. Martin leaves halfway through the film, and his mother makes a sexual advance on Steven, who quickly rebuffs her and goes home. Over the next few days, Martin’s demands on Steven’s time grow increasingly frequent and desperate, but Steven does not reply. One morning Bob awakens and finds he cannot feel his legs—he has become paralyzed. Steven and Anna rush him to the hospital, where a full neurological examination reveals that nothing is physically wrong. Though he briefly recovers, Bob remains unable to walk. While the elder Murphys tend to Bob, Kim meets with Martin for a date.
The next morning, Martin visits Bob in the hospital and demands that Steven speak to him in private. The two retreat to the cafeteria, where Martin reveals the truth: his father did not die immediately, as Steven told his wife, but during surgery that Steven himself performed after the crash. Steven failed to save Martin’s father, and the boy bluntly tells Steven that he blames the cardiologist for the death.
He further explains that, to “balance” the act of destroying a family, Steven must kill one of the members of his own. Martin goes on to explain that he has placed a curse upon the Murphys that will gradually kill them through a series of stages unless Steven makes his choice and murders one of them; the paralysis is the first of these four stages. Steven attempts to dismiss these seemingly wild claims, but later finds that Bob is refusing food—this is the second stage of Martin’s curse. Kim later loses the use of her legs during a choir practice and also will not eat.
Kim receives a phone call from Martin at the hospital. During the conversation, Kim abruptly regains the use of her legs, only to lose mobility again when the connection is broken. This seems to convince Anna of Martin’s power, and she travels to his home to directly ask why she and her children must suffer for Steven’s mistakes. The unrepentant Martin cannot answer, simply remarking that “it’s the only thing I can think of that’s close to justice”.
Anna, further suspecting that her formerly alcoholic husband may have imbibed on the day of the operation, speaks to Steven’s anesthesiologist, who reveals that Steven did in fact have a few drinks that morning, with Anna sexually gratifying him as payment for the information. At Anna’s insistence, the children are transported to their home, where they are continually fed though an NG tube. Anna and Steven fight over the situation, with Steven refusing to believe that anything supernatural is happening. That night, he kidnaps Martin and binds him to a chair in the basement, brutally beating him and demanding that he undo his hold on the children. Martin remains unflappable, warning Steven that time is running out.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Barry G. Bernson, Herb Caillouet, Bill Camp, Michael Trester, Denise Dal Vera
Screenplay by: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Production Design by: Jade Healy
Cinematography by: Thimios Bakatakis
Film Editing by: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Costume Design by: Nancy Steiner
Set Decoration by: Holly Fisk, Adam Willis
Art Direction by: Daniel Baker
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity and language.
Distributed by: A24 Films
Release Date: October 20, 2017