Antlers was the most recent movie I saw. No, it's not a Christmas movie. It's the highly anticipated new creature feature horror film about a boy with a monster problem, in every sense of the word. Did you know Guillermo Del Toro produced it?
The dark tone sets the very scary mood from the get-go. It starts with a couple of guys removing their meth lab supplies out of an abandoned mine when they're interrupted by a mysterious creature's attack. I've been looking forward to this for over a year but it was delayed due to all the pandemonium of current events. I'll keep it SPOILER FREE. Was it worth the wait?
On display here is excellent direction by Scott Cooper. There's a good use of the combination of practical effects and CGI. The latter isn't excessive and the monster isn't shown until toward the end. I love the great creature design too. It's very dramatic and unsettling in the best ways. He uses jump scares but not cheaply, the fright is truly earned. The payoff in the end when the monster is revealed is worth it too. While it takes place in Oregan it's filmed in British Columbia, Canada. The tremendous setting is filmed with long swooping shots. This shows off the vastness of the gorgeous backdrop.
The well-written screenplay is by C. Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, and Cooper. It's a slow burn film containing social commentary about child abuse, poverty, neglect, and climate change. Some of it makes sense for the narrative, some of it doesn't. The pacing is uneven as the drama portions tend to outweigh the horror sections. However, when the horror hits, it hits hard. The film is way gorier than expected so that was a nice surprise. I won't say who or what the creature is but it's nice to see horror films based on indigenous folklore.
The entire cast displays great acting proficiency. Jerry T. Thomas plays Lucas. He's a troubled boy with a shady secret. His reserved behaviour is mistaken for neglect and possible abuse from his parents. As the film goes on more about his home life is revealed slowly, showing a more terrible truth is going on than the real-life horrors imagined before. He reminds me of a young Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense. His fantastically powerful performance steals the show. Kerri Russell plays Julia. Her dark past involving child abuse trauma makes her relate to Lucas which explains her interest in him. Her amazing performance captures her desire to desperately help break the cycle of abuse before it's too late. Jesse Plemons plays Paul, a local cop and Julia's brother. His investigation into the bizarre string of brutal murders is the other half of the film. Being the skeptic, he tries to find rational reasons for the events. His relationship with his sister is estranged, but their backstories to why become more apparent over time. His performance shows his pain with poignancy as he navigates the chaos in his town. Graham Greene plays Warren, one of the local Native Americans asked to consult on the situation. His time on screen is brief but effective and appreciated.
Overall, the satisfying dark tale based on folklore is one of the scariest films released this year. After the anticipation built up over the last year, I'm happy to say it was worth the wait. The dichotomy between the gruesome gore effects and the breathtaking scenery is accentuated its terrific directing, writing, and acting. And remember, the beauty is a delightful contrast to the beast.
Grade: Large Popcorn