Category Archives: psychological

Review: The Neon Demon

Director(s)Nicolas Winding Refn
Principal CastElle Fanning as Jesse
Jena Malone as Ruby
Bella Heathcote as Gigi
Abbey Lee as Sarrah
Karl Glusman as Dean
Keanu Reeves as Hank
Release Date 2016
Running Time117 minutes

The Neon Demon follows Jesse, an aspiring young model looking to make it big in Los Angeles. Armed with only her beauty and charm, the budding star finds herself caught up in the machinations of an industry that simultaneously craves and detests the beauty she possesses. The movie deftly tackles exploitation, sexuality, beauty, and innocence in a way that brings lights the very real issues plaguing the fashion industry while offering a deep dive into the way humanity approaches beauty and aesthetic.

Jesse, on top of being the protagonist, is a stand in for beauty in a more metaphysical sense. Characters constantly talk about her attractive qualities, positioning themselves in relation to her on a spectrum ranging from deification to envy and hatred. It gives every interaction subtext about the way we perceive and interact with beauty, both in destructive and productive capacities. Some of us view beauty as invaluable as physical health, and as such, practices like plastic surgery are necessary to a “good” life. For others, beauty is vain and we should seek to move away from it. It’s all a question of what we think of ourselves. On top of that, we have to balance those ideas with how we think others view them as well. Each of these threads are explored in detail and in relation with one another culminating in a truly unique horror movie about the aspects of our relationship with beauty.

Speaking of beauty, the movie is mesmerizing to listen and watch. Shots are oozing with color and neon blues and reds are used to symbolize egoism and danger respectively. There are mirrors in almost every shot and they’re utilized in every way possible, from background props to make dialogue scenes more memorable to doorways for exploring the human condition. The way the movie is cut gives it a dream like feeling in key moments and adds a constant sense of tension in others. Refn knows how to play with expectations and uses editing misdirects to get memorable and well-earned scares. The movie is violent and gory, but only when it needs to be, so I didn’t think it came off as gratuitous. I got lost in every scene because of Cliff Martinez’s music. It’s synthy and hypnotic, completely lulling you into the energy of whatever is happening on screen. I felt scared, excited, wanted to dance, and completely got into the zone. There’s a lot of range in the music and it’s on of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a movie. The sound editing is also on point and there’s not always music blaring, despite the obvious opportunities for it. When it suits the movie, silence and a distinct chime motif are used to thematically link pieces and add more tension. Put together, it’s an audio-visual experience that’s hard to beat. It knows when to assault the senses and when to hold back for the right moment.

Every performance is on point, but Fanning really shines as the lead of this giallo (big Suspiria vibes) inspired trip through the fashion industry. She starts off innocent and timid trying to find her footing. Never once does she feel manipulative or like an annoying goody two shoes. Instead, she feels almost like beauty personified, trying to make it in a cutthroat industry with only her looks at her side. Watching her transform into a more confident, narcissistic individual is harrowing but entertaining, because it feels natural from a storytelling/psychological perspective and supernatural from a thematic perspective.

My problems with the movie have to do more with the execution of the third act. There’s a lot of grounded realism in the first two acts with some more surreal elements, but by the time the third act rolls around it feels like a total switch. The story just starts going and gets really…. wow. It’s certainly effective and memorable, but I thought that it came off as too allegorical instead of balanced like story had been up to that point.

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TLDRThe Neon Demon is a psychological horror movie about the awful things that await a young model with big aspirations in Los Angeles and as an allegory about humanity’s relationship with beauty wrapped up in a slick neon infused color palette and an synthy mesmerizing soundtrack. If you like more surreal horror that focuses on atmosphere as opposed to jump scares or are interesting an fascinating take on narcissism, this is the movie for you.
Grade A+

Review: Unsane

Director(s)Steven Soderbergh
Principal CastClaire Foy as Sawyer Valentini
Joshua Leonard as David
Jay Pharoah as Nate
Amy Irving as Angelina Valentini
Juno Temple as Violet
Release Date 2018
Running Time98 minutes

This is a movie that deserves to be talked about in the same vein as Get Out when it comes to well done social-commentary horror movies. While Peele’s debut dealt with race, Soderbergh’s story tackles the mental health industry, the #MeToo movement, incel culture, and the effects of a society that amps up paranoia while blaming you for feeling scared. Watching these themes intersect is what makes the movie so distinct and memorable.

The story follows Sawyer Valenti, a women trying to get her life back on track after a harrowing series of run-ins with a serial stalker. After she’s committed to a mental facility, she finds herself trying to find a way out and to deal with the possibility that her stalker is in the institution with her. Soderbergh does a great job at portraying the horrors of being a women in the world. Sawyer deals with snide remarks at the workplace, lack of respect during cordial interactions, constant gaslighting, and a severe lack of respect. She’s simultaneously taught to handle situations with a certain fear and sense of uneasiness and is disrespected for those qualities. It’s frustrating to watch her constantly undermined and thwarted by a system that seems to make it impossible for her to ever win.

What makes the story so much more interesting is the presence of well-rounded and interesting side characters. Angelina is Sawyer’s fierce mother and is on her daughter’s side, trying to help her out. Nate is a resourceful and interesting kind-of friend on the side. Watching him interact with and teach Sawyer the rules of the land is fun, and their burgeoning friendship is pulled off convincingly. The other patients at the facility are handled with respect. This isn’t a mental patients scary movie. In fact, the movie actively argues the opposite. It’s clear that Soderbergh thinks that the mental health industry is almost irredeemable and actively serves to trap everyday people in a system to suck them dry of their money. The patients reflect this. They’re all “off” but they’re not crazy. They’re social, have codes of conduct, and want to interact.

Every major performance is also great. Foy understands the motivations that drive her character and makes her sometimes questionable actions feel believable. The fear, the desperation, the indignation, the sheer lack of energy at having to deal with any more nonsense. You can feel her emotions through the way she moves her body across the screen. Pharoah is amazing in his side role and adds a lot of levity to the otherwise tense movie. He plays well off Foy and the scenes they have talking to each other are among my favorite as a result.

So if you haven’t heard already, this movie was shot exclusively on an iPhone 7 Plus. Soderbergh has talked a lot about how he’s astounded with the results of the movie. I went in to the movie because I heard it was only shot on a cell phone and I was curious at how it’d turn out. I think Soderbergh’s experiment proved mixed results. There are a lot of great shots and sequences, but they never feel as powerful as they should because the iPhone can’t capture the light at all. There’s very little contrast in dark scenes, so you almost start praying for more stuff to occur in the light, just so you know for sure what’s happening. The movie looks a lot more grimy and worn out. I personally liked it, because I thought it fight with the movie and psyche of the characters but if you want something that looks clean, look elsewhere. I didn’t think the movie looked bad per say. I just think that this movie deserved better because of how good the story and characters are.

Plot wise, I don’t share a lot of the same criticisms I’ve seen a lot of other reviews bring up. I think a lot of the sequences in the movie are justified or are done for very distinctive purposes. That being said, there’s only two plot elements that comes up in the third act that feel a bit too absurd. I thought the movie was going to be more nuanced/ambiguous with one of these ideas and it isn’t which made me pretty sad. It’s not that the movie is bad , but it feels like what could’ve been a genuine horror masterpiece is only pretty good instead. However, I can honestly say watching this inspired me. If something this great can be made with an iPhone camera, then there’s only room for improvement. Any of us can make a movie, and I applaud a bigger director for doing this. (Yes I know Tangerine exists. I watched it later and I highly recommend it for people who want to see the true places the medium can go).

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TLDRUnsane is a horror movie about the everyday scenarios women have to go through and does a great job at fairly demonstrating that struggle. The film’s nuanced takes on incel culture, #MeToo tenets, and the mental health industry make it one of the most interesting movies of recent times. Thought it stumbles in some places, I can’t help but appreciate the effort.

The movie being shot on an iPhone 7 may upset some people. The movie is grainy and lighting isn’t that great, but you won’t notice as much when you’re lost in the story.
Grade A

I have a more in depth piece about this coming soon, so check back later for a spoiler discussion.

Review: CAM

Director(s)Daniel Goldhaber
Principal CastMadeline Brewer as Alice Ackerman/Lola_Lola
Patch Darragh as Arnold/TinkerBoy
Michael Dempsey as Barney
Release Date 2018
Running Time95 minutes

I”ll be the first to admit that I thought this movie would be a crapshoot going in. I didn’t see any reviews or anything. I just thought the description sounded interesting enough to warrant a watch . A cam girl psychological horror? Even if it wasn’t that great at least it’d be something new. Man oh man, did I underestimate what I was getting into. From the very first scene, Goldhaber lets you know that this isn’t some trendy social media cash grab movie like Friend Request. Instead it’s a deep look into the horrors of internet privacy and security and the ways we’ve become almost defined by our digital personas.

The movie follows Alice Ackerman, more popularly known by her online persona, Lola_Lola. She’s a camstar who’s been rising through the ranks and is finally on the cusp of making the top 50 most popular content creators. However, just as things start to look promising, Alice notices that her account has been hacked by a girl who looks exactly like her. This clone “Lola” acts,looks, and feels the part and Alice is forced to navigate a harrowing situation with little to no support given the nature of the occupation. The set up is even scarier when you take into account the rise of things like deep fake technology. The movie isn’t based on real events, but I wouldn’t be so sure of that in a decade or two.

This is a movie that treats its subject matter with serious respect. The camgirls that are portrayed are real human beings. They’re smart and treat their source of income like any other working adult would do. Screenplay author Isa Mazzei needs to be commended for creating a nuanced, balanced look into the lives of a group that’s constantly judged but never given a fair shake at presenting their own stories. Likewise, every single person who knows of Alice and her occupation treats her differently. Yes, there’s slut shaming and vicious judgement, but there’s also acceptance and solidarity. It keeps the movie from feeling preachy, and helps focus attention on the plot, so the themes come off natural.

The discussion at hand is broad and touches on a lot of different topics that come together in interesting and horrifying ways. After Alice has her channel taken, she attempts to use different legal channels but never receives a proper response. It’s reflective of the way the law and corporations receive social buy in under the idea that regulative channels will properly do their job, but if people are willing to keep in line with sub-par service, then what’s the point of fixing anything? Interests are transient and there’s a quick fix for any kind of entertainment if you’re willing to look for it and have the capital to ensure that it happens the way you want. You don’t need to fix the system. You just need money to navigate it.

This idea is only expanded by the streamer/anonymous chatroom setting the story takes place in. Yes anonymity and ease of streaming allows content creators to reach out to their expanding audiences more often, but it comes at the cost of putting oneself out there. People give money to those do what they want, and given the ability of anyone to be a content creator, newer entrants have to constantly one up themselves and their peers. You never know who’s giving you the money or why they’re doing it. The audience never has to share and the information asymmetry can lead to some pretty horrendous situations. In some cases, it means receiving money to participate in awful activities. When a creator gives in, the result generates more depraved behavior because suddenly everything has a relative price point. It’s a vicious feed back loop that culminates in the virtual erasure of people. Cam girls aren’t people . They’re consumable objects . It’s just a question of whether or not the audience wants to hurt and/or sexualize them.

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TLDRCAM is a dark look into the tumultuous, and highly dangerous lives of cam girls. In a world where relevance equals money and money equals livelihood, people are forced constantly escalate their behavior to make ends meet. In the cam girl industry, that escalation comes with serious, sometimes horrifying costs. If you’re looking for a horror movie that effectively uses social media at the heart of its scares, look no further than CAM. It’s one of the best.
Grade A

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Gerald's Game

Director(s)Mike Flanagan
Principal CastCarla Gugino as Jessica
Chiara Aurelia as Young Jessica
Bruce Greenwood as Gerald
Henry Thomas as Tom
Kate Siegel as Sally
Carel Struycken as Moonlight Man
Release Date 2017
Running Time103 minutes

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Mike Flanagan is one of the best horror directors in the game right now and this adaptation is the some of the best proof. Gerald’s Game is one of the few King stories I’ve read so when I saw Flangan was directing, I was intrigued in seeing how he’d adapt the unconventional narrative style the story uses. Flanagan and Jeff Howard both deserve applause for synthesizing the ideas of the novel in a suspenseful and easy to digest way.

The story follows a couple, Gerald and Jessica, as they go off on a trip to rekindle the spark in their marriage. After handcuffing Jessica to the bed and downing a few viagra, Gerald tries to initiate some rape-play which Jessica finds too disturbing to continue anymore. After she rejects his advances, he dies suddenly of a heart attack and she finds herself trapped in an abandoned house, handcuffed to a bed, and completely alone. The initial build-up to all of this is handled with an great eye for detail. Issues that come to plague Jessica in her struggle to survive are set up early on, so subsequent reveals and twists feel sweet and satisfying.

The story primarily takes place through a series of conversations Jessica has with projections of her subconscious. Representations of herself, her late husband, traumatic memories of her family and the situation that they placed her in, and nightmare scenarios plague her as she attempts to make out what’s real and what’s relevant to keeping her alive. As Jessica struggles to survive, she’s forced to navigate her trauma and the way she’s attempted to handle it throughout her life. Her story goes to dark places and if is presented with the respect and seriousness it deserves. There are hard scenes to watch, but they’re never exploitative or voyeuristic. They exist to remind you of the uncomfortable truth, but aren’t visceral or provocative outside of that. The deplorable nature of the act is horrifying enough.

A lot of the movie rides on Carla Gugino’s performance. She’s the protagonist and has to play a women who goes through some heartbreaking and emotionally complex realizations about herself and the way she’s dealt with deep seated trauma. Watching the layers of herself slowly fade away to the core of who she is is amazing, and you can feel the intensity of her desire to get to heart of what ails her. Gugino also talks to herself for most of the movie, but breathes life into the conversation so you always feel like something’s going on. The entire movie is her talking to projections of her subconscious, one of the avatars being her subconcious personified as a clone of herself. She manages to be just as convincing talking to herself ( aka nothing in the room) as she does when she talks to Gerald. It’s a testament to how well she threw herself into the role.

I love this movie because I never thought it would be something that could be adapted (a fairly common sentiment). The way that the ideas and discussions are streamlined into easy to follow story-lines gives the movie a more complete and tight feeling. Rarely do I like a movie for than a book, but this is one of those rare exceptions. The adaptation gives Jessica far more agency, which is important because the heart of the movie is learning how to deal with trauma. More agency means more ability to introspectively act and engage in a more thorough catharsis. Her journey through her trauma is moving and never comes at the cost of the more exciting elements of the story. The hard to imagine gory scene from the novel makes its way here and is just as hard to watch. It all just comes to demonstrate how well the adaptation understood the source material and the strengths of a film over a book. It only takes what it needs and does its best to cover the sentiments of what it doesn’t directly copy over.

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TLDRGerald’s Game is one of the best King adaptations to date. It’s a touching tale about overcoming trauma and reclaiming agency. There are certainly visceral scares, but the real horror comes from understanding of the way we try and deal with our pain.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: It Follows

Director(s)David Robert Mitchell
Principal CastMaika Monroe as Jay Height
Keir Gilchrist as Paul Bolduan
Jake Weary as Hugh
Release Date2014
Running Time 100 minutes

Wow, my relationship with this movie is complicated. The first time I watched it, it was after its initial release in the US (2015). I had heard a ton of rave reviews about it and was super hyped. I remember feeling really bored by the end of the movie and cast it away as being over hyped. Fast forward a few years, and I ended up randomly seeing the movie on Netflix and decided to watch it again. This time I enjoyed the movie more, but still didn’t think it was that great. Finally, as I was making my best horror movies of the past decade list (coming soon I promise), I decided to give the movie one more watch and ended up genuinely loving it. All the details I had never paid attention to before like the cinematography and the score came into focus and I could appreciate the movie in its entirety as opposed to just honing in on the stuff I don’t like.

The film follows Jay, a high-school student, who receives a sexually transmitted supernatural curse of sorts. She’s told by her transmitter early on that the titular “it” will follow her to the ends of the earth, taking on any form it can to get to her. “It” can only be seen by her and other people who have been recipients of the curse. She can escape “it” for moments at a time, because “it” can only walk slowly towards her. To temporarily get rid of the curse, she has to pass it on to someone else. With barely any time to get a grasp on this knowledge, Jay is tossed out and forced to reckon with the horrifying situation she finds herself in.

The inherent idea of “it” is terrifying to think about. STD/STI’s are scary enough but “it” takes those fears and personifies them in the shape of something that uniquely haunts each victim. Adolescence is the time for a lot of early sexual exploration which is scary enough. It’s an act that makes you vulnerable to an other and to think that someone would willingly expose you to an ailment in order to survive makes the experience even more harrowing. However, voluntarily passing on the curse uses sex as a kind of social glue, giving it a connective tissue. It’s allegorical for how we begin to approach sexual relations. Yes, it can be scary and harrowing but it can also create positive tethers that prove conducive. It’s not just sex though – sex is only representative of the most intimate form of opening up with each other, so the movie can be interpreted at a more general level of the way we interact with one another. Every time we meet someone new we open ourselves up to a range of interactions. Despite the risks, there’s a lot of positives that can come from opening up. It’s a multifaceted message that allows for hope and enables genuine terror.

If that’s not your cup of tea and you just want to see actual scary moments, It Follows has them, but they’re interspersed throughout the movie. “It” violently brutalizes its victims when it finally reaches them and the aftermath of its encounter is presented within the first scene of the movie. Watching our protagonists interact with “it” make the endeavor feel hopeless and you genuinely get scared whenever “it” is in the proximity of the latest person in the chain of the curse.

Now that the story stuff is out of the way, I have to say the production values on this movie are through the roof. It’s an audio visual treat and you should watch it just to have the sensory experience. Mike Gioulakis knocks the visuals out of the park. You can pause the movie at any point and get a picturesque visual worthy of serving as a screensaver or being printed and placed in a frame. Every time “it” comes into the screen, the tension becomes palpable. There were multiple times where I could feel myself gripping my knuckles. The synthy score by Disasterpeace reminds me a lot of John Carpenters music and gives the movie this cool hypnotic feeling. It’s amazing just how different every track feels and I’ve listened to the album a lot while writing or reading. I absolutely adore the title track and how its incorporated into the movie. Every time I hear it the hairs on my arms automatically start prickling up, so I’d say its association with “it” was well established.

Now that we’ve gotten past the good stuff, let’s tackle my biggest issue with the movie- the characters. I couldn’t tell you any of the personality traits of the characters outside of some small facts about Jay. That’s right I said facts, not personality traits. Jay and her group of friends all feel incredibly stale. It’s not because they lack dialogue or chances for interaction. In fact, I enjoyed some of the conversations the group has with each other. It’s just all the characters have the same “gray” disposition. None of them are particularly energized and they come off as low energy. This compounded with the slow pacing creates the perceptual issue that nothing’s really happening, which is far from the truth. It’s not even that the performances are bad. For example, Weary’s performance as Hugh, the individual who gives Jay the curse to begin with, is great. His motivations come off as justified and scummy, which is exactly how he needs to be. It’s more so that characters are never told to approach situations with a lot of levity. There’s no real opportunity for high octane moments given the way everything plays out. This means the characters only have a few range of emotions to go through which makes certain sequences feel more boring than they should be. It’s an issue that bugs me, but not nearly enough to make me discount the movie like I used to.

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TLDRIt Follows is a treat on your eyes and ears. The idea of a sexually transmitted curse is terrifying, but the nuanced way the movie utilizes it to open up discourse on the way humans open up to each other is beautiful. This is a slow paced movie that relies on atmosphere so if you want jump scares or a lot of action, you may want to skip this. If you enjoy slow burn/arthouse movies then you might really like this,.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!


Review: Kill List

Director(s)Ben Wheatley
Principal CastNeil Maskell as Jay
Michael Smiley as Gal
MyAnna Burning as Shel
Emma Fryer as Fiona
Release Date2011
Running Time 95 minutes

I remember one rainy day in 2013 I was scrolling through the internet looking for a horror movie to watch that would be scratch a different itch from the supernatural movies I was getting used to seeing. I happened upon a Kill List recommendation, saw it was a crime film, and expected to see a typical psychological thriller. I was not ready for the ride I was getting into. This movie is a violent, adrenaline-fueled crime movie that really pushes the genre into new places. After re-watching this movie years later, I can only say my appreciation for its creativity has gone up.

The movie follows Jay and Gal, former soliders who have started to adapt to life back at home. The former finds it incredibly difficult to re-adjust to civilian life and his inability to go out and provide for the family has caused strains in his domestic life. Thankfully for him, his friend Gal comes in with a hitmen job posting. Jay and Gal receive a series of contracts and go out on a mystery laced journey, killing different seemingly disconnected individuals.

I love how the movie approaches its protagonists’ relationship to violence. Gal is more reserved , wanting to do the work because it gives him an source of income and he’d be good at it. He doesn’t want anything more to do with the job than the job itself. On the other hand, Jay is excited for the work because he misses the feeling of being in combat and persecuting the other. The idea of finding a scumbag, of being able to execute a vision of justice by taking out problematic individuals , in an almost ritualistic fervor is what drives him. Money is just the cherry on the top of it . The juxtaposition of their drives and the way their friendship operates in light of certain revelations is interesting and additionally serves as a referendum on the way that people decide to be jury,judge, and executioner in their actions. The discussion becomes more interesting as the movie delves into the identity of the contractors and the scope of their operations. As more things become revealed, the scope of this discussion becomes more ambiguous and open to interpretation. It’s fun to talk about with friends because everyone can come away with a different meaning for why everything happens.

The movie keeps the audience on its toes in how it approaches its depictions of violence. With a name like Kill List, you know that bodies are going to hit the floor. The question is how gruesome are those moments going to be. I read that Wheatley wanted to maintain a mystery about the way violence would be incorporated which is why every instantiation of it plays differently. There are cut-aways that imply the action have happened. There are also very deliberate, maddening displays of violence that will stay in your head for a while. It’s done for the sake of developing the discourse around the themes, not just for the sake of creating a visual spectacle. It manages to be visceral for the people who like to see more gruesome things and also gives people who want to imagine the depictions of violence room to enjoy things. That multifaceted approach to the issue makes it easy to watch in bigger settings. I’ve found the movie to be a good way to convert more mainstream horror/thriller fans into more out there horror movies, so if you’ve been itching to share that arthouse movie to a buddy, try this out first.

There are certain twists in the third act that I love. I can’t talk about any of them for fear of spoiling the movie, and I urge you to watch the movie without watching any trailers about it. There are some awesome sequences that I can still vividly remember. It’s shocking and should please a lot of people. However, it feels a bit rushed and that’s in spite of certain bits of foreshadowing in earlier scenes. I would have loved if the movie had developed these later elements in with the earlier discussion of violence to create a more nuanced take.

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TLDRKill List is a innovative crime horror that pushes the genre into a cool new direction.It’s an interesting look into violence and the way we orient ourselves in relation to it. If you want to show your friends more arthouse horror movies and they’re already into thriller/psychological horror movies then this may serve a sa good transition point.
Grade A

Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Director(s)Yorgos Lanthimos
Principal CastColin Farrell as Steven Murphy
Barry Keoghan as Martin
Nicole Kidman as Anna Murphy
Raffey Cassidy as Kim Murphy
Sunny Suljic as Bob Murphy
Release Date2017
Running Time 121 minutes

Saying I love this movie might be an understatement. When I first saw this back in 2017, I was left completely floored. This movie goes dark, nihilistic places but is somehow hilarious in an awful twisted way. It’s one of a kind and had me on the edge of my seats up till the credits started to roll. Watching it again for this review only reminded me of how amazing it all was and I promise I’ll watch more of Yorgos’s stuff in the future (starting with The Lobster) .

The plot summary will be sparse, because watching the mystery unravel is the best part. Steven Murphy is a renowned surgeon, living the bourgeoisie American life. He has a gorgeous exorbitant house and a nice idyllic family life. After he starts a friendship with Martin, an unnerving high school student, his family mysteriously starts falling ill. As he struggles to find a way to bring them back to good health, he’s forced to confront his past and make some truly outrageous decisions.

Without spoiling too much, the movie is about revenge and responsibility. When someone is wronged, how can we rectify the scales? Who should be responsible and how should things play out? The movie doesn’t stray away from some dark explorations into these areas and watching the characters grapple with the weight of their actions is both disturbing and comedic. There’s just something funny about the lengths people will go through to deny the truth of what’s going on in front of them, and Yorgos knows exactly how to depict that absurdity in a way that’s poignant and sardonic. It’s telling of the human condition- in particular the American bourgeoisie lifestyle – in how people are willing trade bits and pieces of themselves to keep a sense of social coherence/status. People are so preoccupied with inflating their sense of self, that they lose focus of the the important things, trading their humanity for some ludicrous fantasy.

You could pause the movie at random (most of the time) and end up with a nice picturesque moment. Yorgos knows how to create tension and mood with proper shot composition. There are gorgeous tracking shots that accentuate drama. Most of the time the camera zooms in or out very slowly to show the characters relation to the situation around them. Often times, it feels like it’s highlighting isolation and their attempts at projecting outside of that. The score only amplifies this feeling. There are boisterous orchestral moments that make the movie feel like a classic, and modern touches like a cover of Ellie Goulding’s Burn (which is horrifying but catchy).

Everyone’s performance is on point, but Barry Keoghan’s portrayal as Martin is something especially noteworthy. He’s creepy – all caps. He comes off a awkward initially, but as the plot progresses he becomes incredibly versatile. He’s menacing, honest, to-the-point, dry, nonchalant,serious and consistent at his core despite shifting among these moods. If he couldn’t balance the dead-pan, serious delivery of the lines, then a lot of more more memorable scenes wouldn’t have the same impact.

I only have a few problems with the movie. Some of the loftier plot elements feel a bit too “convenient” for me to accept without any question. They’re a bit too fantastical and feel at odds with the depth of realism in other areas. Furthermore, I wanted to understand some of the main drivers of the mystery in more depth, because I thought it could add and enhance the discussion of responsibility, but the film avoids that explanation. It becomes a bigger issue because the first act feels at odds with the conclusion of the movie without this explanation.

The characters also feel a bit odd. Don’t get me wrong. They’re memorable, distinct, and definitely all have moments where they shine. They’re just not relatable because they’re all odd, both as individuals and as interconnected units. Their characterization makes the themes of the movie pop out more , but make the horror harder to relate to.

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TLDRThe Killing of a Sacred Deer is a deep dive into the dark crevices of the bourgeoisie psyche. It explores themes of revenge, responsibility, and the practice of engaging in cognitive dissonance for social standings. Some of the more ambiguous elements hold the film back from fully exploring its potential, but it hardly matters. If you’re looking for a dark comedic drama with some absurdist moments, I implore you to check this one out.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!