The Killing of A Sacred Deer Explained: A World Where Karma Is Inescapable
In our world, there have been and sadly will be many wrongdoers who easily escape punishment. The reasons are many- the police authorities couldn’t nab them in time, their crimes couldn’t be proved, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, etc. But imagine a place where it’s not the law that goes after those who commit sins, it’s karma itself that seeks them out and deals them a punishment befitting their crimes. That’s the kind of world The Killing of a Sacred Deer, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, explores.
At first glance, the story of The Killing of a Sacred Deer appears to be normal but as it progresses, its robotic vibes and strangeness become hard to miss long before the creepiness and horror are ushered in.
The story of The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The story of The Killing of a Sacred Deer starts with Murphy (Colin Farrell), a famous cardiothoracic surgeon, who has just successfully completed a major surgery. He appears to lead a happy life- his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) is a doctor and he has two kids, a teenage daughter Kim who has an inclination towards music, and a younger son, Bob. But all the signs of success and happiness are too methodical, too formal. This includes Murphy’s interactions with his colleagues, and children. Even sex with his wife appears regimented.
We see Murphy frequently meeting with a young boy, Martin, which includes having lunches with him, giving him gifts, and even inviting him home one day. When Anna inquires about him, he lies that Martin’s father was once his patient years ago and died in a car crash. Since then Murphy has been occasionally meeting up with Martin to help him deal with his grief.
But the truth is that Martin’s father died when Murphy operated on him while drunk as he committed a deadly error during the surgery. And the reason Murphy has been playing a sympathetic father to Martin is not to assuage his guilt. He unremorsefully covers up his lies and even blames the anesthetist when Anna grills him about the truth. His only motive for cozying up to Martin is to somehow escape the design of the world he lives in as he believes that if he is good to the young boy, he will not be punished for his sins. But that’s not how the world in The Killing of a Sacred Deer works.
The inevitable cycle of Karma
One day, when Murphy’s son Bob wakes up, he can’t stand or feel his legs. His parents immediately rush him to the hospital, where after a brief period of being able to walk, Bob completely loses any movement in his legs. But Murphy appears more afraid and resigned than shocked to see his son like this without any preliminary signs of any illness. He is determined to find an underlying physical ailment for his son’s condition while Anna is already sure that there is nothing wrong with Bob’s health. She instantly knows that this has something to do with Murphy’s story about Martin’s father and this is where she finds out the truth about him.
Fortunately, the characters’ confusing reaction to their child’s sudden illness is explained soon when Martin comes to visit Murphy in the hospital. In a matter-of-fact tone, Martin tells him that he knew that this “critical moment” i.e., Bob’s partial paralysis, will one day come. Why? Because just as Murphy killed Bob’s father, he will now have to kill someone from his family to “balance things out.” If he doesn’t kill someone from his family, just like Bob, Anna and Kim will become paralyzed, lose the will to eat, and will one day start bleeding from their eyes before eventually dying.
This is how the world wherein The Killing of a Sacred Deer is set in works i.e., an eye for an eye. Where natural law would punish Murphy directly for his negligence that resulted in Martin’s father’s death. The web of Karma deems that he too loses a family member just like Martin did. Murphy always knew that’s how this world works but he dared to believe that his sins will never be discovered and just because he is nice to Martin, he will be forgiven.
At several moments in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, it may seem like Martin has mysterious powers and is the one that is targeting Murphy’s family. But that’s not the case. He is simply taking pleasure in knowing that justice is finally being dealt out. I earlier mentioned the methodical aspect of this world, which we see in its entirety by the final act of the film. Once Anna, Kim, and Bob come to know the truth, they all start selfishly trying to save themselves.
Murphy visits the kids’ school and asks the principal to tell him which one of the two is the best, so he can choose whom to kill. Anna suggests to Murphy to kill one of the children as they are both young enough to have another kid. Bob suddenly becomes an admirer of his father and an obedient son. Kim, who is now paralyzed too, first tries to convince Martin to cure her and run away with her, but as mentioned above, he is not responsible. So, Kim desperately attempts to leave her house and when Murphy finds her, she plays the martyr and implores her father to kill her while heaping praise on him and calling him her “master” whose wishes she lives to obey.
Finally, the day Bob starts bleeding from his eyes, Murphy accepts that no matter how much he denies it, he will lose his entire family if he doesn’t kill one of them. Thus, just as fate rules his world and doles out punishments, Murphy pulls down a hat over his eyes and spins in a circle while holding a rifle, firing recklessly while Anna, Kim, and Bob are tied up with their faces covered in three separate directions. He ends up killing Bob.
Sometime later, we see the family in a diner, including a fully recovered Kim. Just then Martin enters and looks at the family as if to confirm that justice has finally been donet.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is like director Yorgos Lanthimos’ imaginary version of how the world that doesn’t have to rely on a compromised legal system to give punishment for a crime- the inescapable law of Karma does it without fail.