The Killing of a Sacred Deer

If The Square was somewhat less than I was expecting, The Killing of a Sacred Deer pulled it back by going way beyond what I was hoping for. To be fair, this is partly because I’d forgotten almost everything I knew about it… I’m usually a little suspicious of big name actors doing intense genre thrillers – too often they pull their punches and aren’t as tense, brutal or imaginative as you might expect from a more indie offering. So Colin Farell and Nicole Kidman didn’t exactly leave me optimistic about this one. Add on the fact it’s getting a full cinema release and you start to wonder whether its even worth it being in the film festival at all.

But wait.

I’d forgotten who the director is. Yorgos Lanthimos doesn’t mess about. Yorgos Lanthimos doesn’t pull punches. Yorgos Lanthimos makes The Killing of a Sacred Deer every bit as unsettling as you could hope for. If you’ve seen Dogtooth or Lobster you know that this is going to be intense, weird, and fascinating from start to finish. It’s nothing much like either of those two films but the same touch is present here.

It’s fantastic he’s getting to do such high-profile projects. I think if you’d told me as I left Dogtooth at the Hyde Park Picture House many years ago, that Lanthimos would be directing Farell and Kidman in an English language film on general release I’d have laughed at you. Or assumed he’d have sold out, toned it down for a wider audience. But the weird keeps going at full pace.

The big name cast are excellent here. The script gives Kidman a lot less to do than Farell, but there’s no doubting that the real star here is Barry Keoghan as Martin. I’m especially keen to give nothing of the plot away, so let’s just say that Martin is an odd boy.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a treat. If you like a thriller, or have enjoyed Lanthimos’ films, it should be right up your street.

Schneider Vs Bax

This is something pretty refreshing. Schneider Vs. Bax treads a weirdly delicate balance between being a black comedy and a genuine, straight-faced thriller. Amidst contract killers, drug abuse, fractured family relationships and whole bunch of swamp and reeds we find ourselves in a Finnish drama that veers between being a bit silly and being very serious.

I’ve no idea what I’d expected – the Liff programme had it billed as a kind of farce and – in parts – that’s more or less accurate. Elsewhere it’s as tense a drama as you could ask for as tooled-up killers hunt their prey in the swampland. The master stroke of the film is its neutral position. You’re rarely less than sympathetic with either side of the Schneider Vs Bax conflict and it makes for a weird viewing. Usually when someone on screen is looking to shoot someone else you’re viewing it from a firmly partisan perspective: you want one of them to win. Here though, it’s just fascinating to watch it all unfold.

Truly solid film. I’d happily watch this one again.

A can of Rooster’s Baby Faced Assassin for this one. It’s a punchy, strong IPA that you could easily drink far too much of. And Assassin is clearly a very fitting beer for the film!