A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a psychological horror movie about a troubled family and a kind of curse that befalls them. It's very violent and disturbing, with lots of blood/blood stains, as well as punching, slapping, biting (and spitting out chunks of flesh), bleeding from the eyes, gun use/shooting, and death. There are also several strong sexual situations of various types, including both partial nudity (bare breasts/bottoms) and brief female full-frontal nudity. Language is infrequent but contains one key use of "f--k," as well as "ass" and one or two other words. A teen boy and adult characters smoke cigarettes. Some social drinking is shown, and a character is said to have stopped drinking after perhaps drinking too much at the wrong time. While not for kids, this is an artful, highly skilled, and very challenging film that may appeal to hardcore cineastes, just as the director's The Lobster did.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) befriends a 16-year-old boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan), following Martin's father's death on the operating table. After a time, Martin becomes closer to Steven and his family -- including his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman); his teen daughter, Kim (Raffey Cassidy); and his young son, Bob (Sunny Suljic). Martin even invites Steven to his own home for dinner, where Martin's mother (Alicia Silverstone) flirts openly with the happily married Steven. Then one morning, Bob's legs go numb, and he's unable to walk and unwilling to eat. Martin visits again and explains that Bob's condition will worsen -- and the rest of his family will follow -- unless Steven makes a terrible sacrifice.
Is it any good?
Following Dogtooth and The Lobster, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos delivers a brutal, skillful psychological horror movie. It's clear that he's unafraid to peer into humanity's most uncomfortably dark depths. Drawing easy comparisons to Stanley Kubrick because of his chilly, cavernous spaces and mid-level lighting, Lanthimos also recalls the great French master Robert Bresson with his method of stripping down performances to an emotionless essence. The actors' line readings can seem stiff, but it's also possible to read anything into them.
Lanthimos' subject matter in The Killing of a Sacred Deer is something else, pushing far past whatever Kubrick or Bresson ever intended, exploring feelings of love, guilt, fear, rage, and more, and showing them as squirmy and unattractive. Essentially, Lanthimos' movies could be about the way we feel we must hide our feelings -- and the fear that showing them could make people uneasy. But psychological and thematic readings of the movie are for later. Actually watching it is both spellbinding and supremely disturbing, although overall more satisfying than something like Darren Aronofsky's equally bizarre mother!.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted? Which moments involve love and trust, and which don't? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
What do you think the movie is trying to say? Is it really about choosing which family member to sacrifice to save the rest, or is something else going on?
Is the movie scary or disturbing? What's the difference?
- In theaters: October 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2018
- Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
- Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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