Seemingly there has been a slew of films lately with a broiling emphasis on shock and violence packaged in a polished, artistic sheen. Yorgos Lanthimos' (The Lobster) The Killing of a Sacred Deer, along with Darren Aronfsky's Mother!, are those rare occasions where the boundary-pushing vision of a filmmaker is put on display for cushy seated multiplexes. It's hard not to compare these two pictures as they both share a confounding plot with a nightmarish sensibility. They are also slickly made and seductive; the tastelessness of some of the horror elements are in the forefront but they are also juxtaposed with "tasteful," graceful film-making. In that respect, these pictures owe much to Polanski and Kubrick. Deer, in particular, is a riff of sorts on Kubrick's The Shining. We even have the shaggy-haired young son of the piece, Bobby played by Sunny Suljic, bearing a resemblance to Danny Lloyd.
Deer is a hollow picture that looks incredible (supple lighting work and photography--the cinematographer is Thimios Bakatakis), centering upon a hollow family. We are introduced to them in their beautiful, sprawling home in a dinner scene that highlights their wan, somewhat lifeless personalities and peculiar precision with their speech and manner. Steve is a cardiovascular surgeon (bushy-bearded Colin Farrell) at the head of this opus, whose previous carelessness is coming back to roost. Because the film--seemingly rooted in Biblical and mythological lore--takes its sweet, dread-infused time to get to the mysterious perils that befall the family, it's a difficult piece to surmise without giving much away.