Kermodystopia

Sometimes you’ll see SPOILER emblazoned across the top of an article. So, SPOILER. This is going to be full of SPOILERs.

Lucky for you the film’s shit and I’m doing you a favour.

Yesterday, so quite fresh in the part of my brain that deals with anger, I watched a film called The Killing of a Sacred Deer. This was sold to me thusly:

Dr. Steven Murphy is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife and two children. Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin, a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever.

That’s a reasonable summary of the film. Wikipedia categorises it as a ‘psychological horror’. Neither Nicole Kidman nor Colin Farrell have driven me to weaponry in the past. This has Chris written all over it.

Two hours later I was gaping like I’d just heard Springtime for Hitler for the first time and I wasn’t the only one.

Here’s your SPOILER. Martin’s dad had died in surgery thanks to Dr Murphy being shitfaced in the operating theatre. Martin wants revenge. He decides that Dr Murphy must kill either his wife or one of his two children as recompense. Why would he do that? Because if he doesn’t they’ll all die one by one in the next few days anyway. First they’ll lose the ability to walk, then they’ll lose their appetites, then they’ll start to bleed from the eyes and then they’ll die.

What’s causing it? Never explained. How is Martin doing it? Nobody asks. Is there any way to stop it? Doesn’t look like it. Eventually Dr Murphy picks one of his family at random, shoots his 12-year-old son, and the film ends with the remaining three members of the family fit and well, and content. Martin eats a pie.

Even ignoring this nonsense the film was a mess. Every actor had been told to play it flat, nearly emotionless, and to heap on the meaningful pauses and lingering stares. The mother saying “I think you should kill one of the children because we can always have another one” would appeal to my macabre side were it not delivered with the intensity of “spillage in aisle four cleaner to aisle four please”. The moment Nicole wanks off an anaesthetist would have had me doubled over at how badly it was handled had she not been handling him with such blank-faced ferocity I had to look away wincing.

This, a review explains to me, is “merely the latest and most directly engaging example of the so-called “Greek Weird Wave” revolutionising world cinema at the moment”. Isn’t it just.

Is this ‘arthouse’? If it is, I understand art often involves paint and many paints are flammable so we’re halfway there already. These films should have their own special screens in their own special cinemas so we can know the whereabouts of Guardian critics and Mark bloody Kermode at all times.

Reviews are near-universally laudatory for The Killing of a Sacred Deer with such gems as:

cinema that slinks around your subconscious like a hungry panther, sniffing out soft bits to nip
it has a stylised element of absurdism and it is also a plausible expression of denial
when awful truths are revealed, they are recited like cursed verse, conjuring a fable-like sense of fate, out of step with contemporary concepts of choice

Fuck off away and out of it.

Don’t get the wrong idea – I’ve no interest in superhero films or car chases. The films I’ve watched lately include Blade Runner 2049, The Death of Stalin, Wind River, Detroit, Split, Atomic Blonde and Get Out. I’ve seen It – I’m fine with ridiculous. I just like a little plot, a stab at coherence and nothing overly surreal outside of dreams and drug benders. And no more than a couple of unexplained handjobs.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer rockets into my top three most hated films of all time where it vies for top spot with Bruce Almighty and another almighty fucking mess of ‘arthouse’, Kill List. This purports to be a ‘crime drama’ about a pair of hitmen and for the first two thirds it is. Then:

Jay awakens in the field, surrounded by the masked cultists, who strip him and place a mask over his face. He is confronted by his last victim, “The Hunchback”, a masked and cloaked person armed with a knife. After a brutal knife fight, Jay triumphs, only to discover that the Hunchback was his wife with [his son] Sam strapped to her back. His wife appears to laugh as she dies. Jay is crowned by the cultists.

Oh to be a fly on the wall when the film’s investors saw how that one panned out. Once again the reviews piled on the praise as their writers rushed to be the first to claim they ‘get’ it. Oh we get it all right you fuckers. Desperate to appear worldly and urbane, you give no thought to the poor bastards eagerly buying their tickets to see the cinematic equivalent of a fire in a primary school.

The more I think about The Killing of a Sacred Deer the more livid I become. I don’t expect to have faith in many people in life – politicians are dead to me, apparently we can’t trust anything the media tells us and my football team refuse to win every match no matter how much I pay them. But if we can’t trust the people who write film blurbs, where are we headed? To some terrifying Kermodystopia, that’s where. I watched Don’t Look Now recently; another staggering mess of abhorrent gibberish:

John corners the elusive figure in a deserted palazzo and approaches it, believing it to be a child. Instead, it is revealed to be a hideous female dwarf, and while John is frozen in terror the dwarf pulls out a meat cleaver and cuts his throat.

It’ll stun nobody to discover that crap is in Mark Kermode’s top ten films of all time, with not a Hitchcock in sight.

Deer and dwarves be damned. Take your arthouse and your ‘stylised element of absurdism’ and stuff them right up your experimental niche. It’s time this exasperating drivel was relegated to Tuesday nights at the BFI, the nether reaches of Netflix or to ‘Walter Presents’, where subscriptions are revoked and authorities notified at the very mention of Blazing Saddles.

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