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Parents' Guide to

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Skillful, fascinating, but very disturbing art-horror movie.

Movie R 2017 121 minutes
The Killing of a Sacred Deer Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 15+

Unsettling, disturbing and intense, this film does not hold back on its portrayal of revenge

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) follows a rather wealthy and fortunate family and it’s father figure. He, a doctor, takes a troubled teen under his wing after the death of his father at his own hands during surgery. The boy continues to inject himself into their lives until eventually pulling off a sinister and most likely paranormal vengeance against him for his fathers death, a game in which all of his family members will slowly get sick and die if he does not kill one of them, just as he killed the boys father. Expect lots of awkward sexual scenes, disturbing and unsettling content and some violent images towards the end. VIOLENCE: MODERATE The film doesn’t have a lot of violence in it, however the content, tone and themes in this movie are incredibly depressing, disturbing and intense and because of this the film is hard to watch, and on top of this there are a few scenes of upsetting violence during the last half hour. The very opening shot of the film is a graphic and real life open heart surgery on a real patient. This is shown up-close in graphic detail for an extended period of time, and some may find this scene disgusting. During the coarse of the film, two adolescents, one child and a teen are shown falling ill and miserably and slowly dying. Both of them are shown randomly collapsing to the floor as they become paralyzed at their legs, at one point the boys father becomes frustrated and picks the boy up and drops him onto the floor in order to try to make him walk, in another scene the boy falls off of his bed after attempting to walk. Towards the end of the movie they are shown crawling around their home, and in one scene the girl is shown with her knees bloodied after trying to escape down a street. Also, towards the end, the boys eyes begin bleeding profusely. They are at threat of being killed as well at the end, and they desperately try to impress their father so he doesn’t decide to shoot them. A boy is shown tied up to a chair with bruises covering his face. He is then punched several times and blood is shown oozing out of his face and filling his mouth and bloodying his teeth. His feet are shown bruised and he is shot at and threatened, a bloody open wound is shown on his leg from being tortured as well. At one point, he bites his captors arm and then bites his own arm before ripping and tearing off a chunk of flesh from his arm, this scene is very bloody and disturbing. During the final minutes of the film, a man duct tapes his entire family onto chairs in his living room and tapes their mouths as well, he then places pillow cases onto their heads. One of the children appears afraid and tries to escape the pillow case as he puts it on. He then grabs a gun, pulls a beanie over his head as a blindfold and then starts spinning around the room shooting blindly in order to kill one of them. He misses a few times and his children and wife are shown screaming and mumbling under the duct tape. He spins one last time and winds up shooting the young boy. Blood is shown pouring out of a bullet wound in his chest and spreading all over his shirt along with pouring down all over the duct tape. He goes limp and dies. This scene is extremely intense, disturbing and very, very upsetting to watch. This scene may even be a lot for the most desensitized of people. SEXUAL CONTENT: SEVERE There are lots of extremely awkward and uncomfortable sexual scenes and situations throughout the film, although direct sexual activity is more infrequent, but dialogue and elements of sexuality are very frequent and hard to watch because of how cringeworthy they are. A woman undresses and lays flat on a bed in nothing but a bra and underwear. The man begins rubbing his crotch as he is aroused, we then see her and she asks if her position is good as we hear him rubbing his crotch in the background. He then climbs on top of her, kisses her neck and breasts and then pulls down her underwear. She is shown laying on the bed without underwear on for a few seconds revealing frontal nudity, however this scene is pretty dimly lit. Sex is heavily implied. A woman begins acting strangely around a man. She comments on how beautiful his hands are before suggestively sucking and licking them. He gets up and walks off while the woman insists nobody would know. A boy tells a man about how great his mothers body is. He also says his mom has a crush on the man, making him uncomfortable. A man recounts a graphic story to his son about how when he was young and just began masturbating, it would result in only a small amount of semen, so out of curiosity from the rumors about it at school, he snuck into his fathers room while he was sleeping and “stroked” his penis until he ejaculated and sperm went everywhere. This is incredibly graphic in description and the scene is uncomfortable to watch. A teenage girl removes all of her clothing in front of another teenage boy and lays flat on a bed suggesting she wants to have sex with him, but he walks away and rejects her and nothing further happens. A man is shown showering, his buttocks are shown. After this, he is shown sitting on a couch fully nude, but his hands are covering his genitals. In frustration, a man screams inside of a house that he will “f*ck“ a boy and his mother just like they wanted. In order to obtain information from him, woman is shown giving a man a hand job in his car. Her arm is shown jerking up and down while the man moans loudly. We also hear the noise of the jerking. The scene finishes with his orgasm. No nudity is shown as we see his from the waist up, but this scene is pretty graphic and hard to watch. A woman lies on a bed fully nude, her breasts and pubic hair are shown as the scene shows full frontal nudity. The scene is quite brief and once again dimly lit. LANGUAGE: MILD The language is 100% clean other than 2 uses of “f*ck” and 1 use of “ass”. One of the uses of “f*ck” is used strongly and in a sexual context. DRUG CONTENT: NONE Smoking in the context of stress, references to drinking before surgery. No drug content and mild smoking. OVERALL: 15+ for disturbing violent and sexual content and for some language and graphic nudity

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
1 person found this helpful.
age 17+

Very strong character performances

This film has very strong character performances from Farrell, Kidman, and Keoghan. It is worth watching the whole thing to see these three work with icy precision. Kidman has a heckuva lot of range. Keoghan's creep factor carries the film and honorable mention to Cassidy and Silverstone. Lanthimos knows how to set up a complex story. The ending of the film feels a bit of a letdown, considering what preceded it, but I think that has more to do with how much we are numb to violence and death. Especially when it comes as a whimper. I think the mundaneness is the point, it does not make it any less tragic.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (5 ):
Kids say (7 ):

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!.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: October 20, 2017
  • On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2018
  • Cast: Colin Farrell , Nicole Kidman , Barry Keoghan
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • 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: June 20, 2023

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