IN 2009, Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos garnered enough awards to clutter a mantelpiece for his deliciously quirky, dystopian drama Dogtooth.

Weird waltzed hand-in-hand with wonderful inside a secluded compound, where parents nurtured their grown-up son and two daughters with an unsettling blend of cruelty and kindness.

Ever since, the Athens-born filmmaker has delighted us with his dizzyingly inventive character studies, which inhabit a netherworld between reality and fantasy, including the Oscar-nominated The Lobster. In The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou draw loosely on Greek mythology for a twisted morality tale that tests a father’s love to breaking point.

Revenge is served ice cold, garnished with shavings of creeping psychological dread, set to a discordant soundscape by Johnnie Burn that juxtaposes classical music with an a cappella rendition of Ellie Goulding’s dancefloor hit Burn.

Like all of Lanthimos’ work, the film is distinguished by the quality of the writing and he skilfully employs staccato lines of dialogue to set our nerves on edge. Social niceties are gnawed to the bone.

Cardiac surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) meets with a mysterious 16-year-old called Martin (Barry Keoghan).

A few days later, Steven invites Martin to his home and introduces the guest to his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), 14-year-old daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and younger son Bob (Sunny Suljic). Over dinner, Martin sombrely reveals that he lost his father in a car accident so now it is just him and his mother (Alicia Silverstone).

Soon after, a strange affliction takes hold of the Murphy household.

“Dad, I can’t get up,” whimpers Bob one morning. “My legs are numb!”

The boy is rushed into hospital, where his condition worsens, and then Kim is struck down by the same debilitating symptoms.

“I don’t know if what is happening is fair,” Martin enigmatically informs Anna, “but it’s the only thing I can think of that’s close to justice.”

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer comes close to replicating the macabre genius of Lanthimos’ earlier work, but falls short in the final act. Farrell and Kidman deliver haunting performances while Keoghan oozes righteous rage as a son on a mission to assuage grief with a sacrifice. Lanthimos gleefully plays with madness and almost nudges us over the edge of sanity.

RATING: 7.5/10