Thursday, October 28, 2021

Antlers (2021) - Movie Review

The Movie: Antlers

The Director: Scott Cooper

The Cast: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan

The Story: In an isolated Oregon town, a middle-school teacher and her sheriff brother become embroiled with her enigmatic student, whose dark secrets lead to terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature who came before them.

The Review:
Guillermo del Toro is well known for his dark fairy tale storytelling style so when he is listed as a producer on a movie, the project receives an instant credibility upgrade. I mean, the guy made Pan's Labyrinth which is one of my all time favorite movies. While director Scott Cooper hasn't necessarily done much in the world of horror films, his resume is pretty solid when it comes to the different types of movies he has made which includes Crazy Heart and Hostiles. You can definitely feel del Toro's influence in this movie yet there's no doubt that this is Cooper's movie.

This story is set in a small town in Oregon and it's about as Oregon as a movie and its location could possibly get. The lush, green beauty of the Pacific Northwest is well represented with some beautiful camerawork that highlights the vast forest landscape as well as the quirky normalcy of a small town that looks and feels like it has existed for more decades than maybe it should have. The story feels very dark, gloomy, and frightening and I mean frightening in a way that exists because we know what it feels like. The textures of the story come from very human characteristics like loss, abuse, depression, oppression, exploitation, and mental health.

Yes, this might seem like pretty heavy stuff for a horror movie yet the genre has always tackled these topics just maybe not all together and not in such a bleak manner as what we see here. Yes, it's dark and gloomy but that's not to say it isn't entertaining as well. I would say this movie is one of the most effective and affective horror movies I have seen in some time and it's also a rare occasion when I wish one of these movies would have pushed closer to the two hour mark so that we could take a more in depth look at the characters, their relationships, and their interactions.

There's a really strong through line of just about all the characters having gone through some sort of trauma stemming from abuse in some way and who they are now is highly generated from that experience. This is where I would have liked to see a bit more, especially between the sister and brother played by Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons although I can see why some of that may have been left on the cutting room floor for pacing and sticking to the primary narrative. By the way, both Russel and Plemons are pretty great in the movie and their performances alone are worth the price of admission. On top of that, Jeremy T. Thomas might have one of the strongest youth performances of the year.

On top of all of that, this is also an ecological horror story as it dives into the perils of our government's lack of respect for nature in just about every way possible and how it has affected the people of the small town as well as the indigenous people who populated the area long before mines and mills and factories brought pollution, neglect, and abuse. I like how the demonic side of the story arises from all of that human interference in the natural order of things and emphasizes how a symbiotic relationship with our planet might lead to less of a backlash from the forces of evil.

The Verdict:
Antlers gets to the point with a dark and gloomy story that bucks up the tension with a wild tale of mostly man made horrors. The movie is filled with ecological, mental, and emotional trauma that literally and figuratively conjures up demons from our past.

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