The Killing of a Sacred Deer ★★★★½

The characters in Yorgos Lathimos’ films don’t talk like normal people. In the case of the Bizarro clan in the director’s pitch-black absurdist masterpiece 'Doogtooth' (2009), the family’s speech patterns reveal the insular worldview enforced by the parents—a Wonderland paradigm where “sea” means “chair” and housecats are ravenous monsters. 'The Lobster' (2015) looks on as desperate singles go through the ridiculous rituals of romance in some alternate future, exhibiting the cold pragmatism and stilted unfamiliarity of visitors from another planet.

In Lathimos’ new feature, 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer', the director’s penchant for unnervingly off-key dialog isn’t as thematically pertinent as it is in his other works. There’s not much subtext to the film’s verbal inelegance, beyond the routine observation that social interactions are detached and vacuous in the modern world. (In this, 'Killing' bears some resemblance to David Cronenberg’s icier features, such as 'Crash' and 'Cosmopolis'.) However, the film’s distinctive Lathimos speech patterns—characterized by emotional blankness and perfunctory line deliveries—engender a forceful mood of skin-crawling unease. That atmosphere is an essential component of 'Killing', which represents the Greek filmmaker’s first plunge into full-fledged horror cinema, albeit a fittingly arid and chilly stripe of arthouse horror...

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