Antlers (2021) – Review

Directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro, Antlers delves into supernatural folklore horror and a tale of trauma, grief and horror taking place in a small Oregon town.

An adaptation of Nick Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy”, the film incorporates a variety of elements that are in many contemporary horror films. The trauma and bad family dynamics are conspicuous since the beginning, following a community where poverty and neglect are rampant. The film opens with a spine-chilling quote, letting the audience a glimpse of the malovelent spirit at hand:

pray it desires not You.

Julia, (Keri Russell) a school teacher who decides to return home to live with her brother Paul (Jesse Plemons), notices a student named Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) in her class who is particularly quiet. As it turns out, Julia discovers that Lucas’ mother passed away and lives with his dad, Frank (Scott Haze), and brother, Aidan (Sawyer Jones). Frank in the meantime seems to be going into a descent of ferocity as he was attacked by an elusive wild creature, the Wendigo, in the beginning – his demeanor starting to mimic it.

Utilizing both practical effects and digital augmentation, the Wendigo is satisfyingly horrifying and disgusting. Cooper effectively creates a claustrophobic environment within Lucas’ house, particularly with Frank’s transformation. The use of light and darkness conveys the bleak ambience successfully, though there are a few scenes that might have been slighly too dark.. This mood would have complemented a solid narrative, however that’s where it falls short.

It’s evident that the Wendigo correlates with the pain experienced in the community, whether it’s the grisly past of Julia or the dilemma that Lucas faces. However, while the themes are present, they feel underdeveloped and not explored enough. The setting, elements of abuse, folklore mythology, societal hardships are all there, but they are vaguely connected. Juggling these differing aspects is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it sacrifices cohesion and profundity, it makes the film seem unfinished. This film attempts to sketch a relevant and fascinating plot as it is mainly plot driven, but it treats the narrative as if it is a film solely focusing on mood or ambience. The actors’ performance was great, albeit it does not make up for the flimsy narrative.

Antlers is a case of an atmospheric horror movie that is fortified by amazing visual and makeup effects along with other technicalities, but unfortunately tries to tackle a bit of everything without depth . It’s better to touch a few themes on a less superficial level as it would have tied all the motifs together. Trauma is getting explored more and more in horror, and in the realm of today’s movies, Antlers leaves a lot to be desired.

Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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