Friday, October 29, 2021

Antlers Review: An Understated And Perfectly Constructed Creature Feature

Release date: October 29, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed by Scott Cooper
Produced by Guilermo del Toro, David S. Goyer, and J. Miles Dale
Starring: Keri Russell (Julia), Jesse Plemons (Paul), Jeremy T. Thomas (Lucas), Scott Haze (Frank), Amy Madigan (Principal Ellen), Rory Cochrane (Daniel Lecroy), Graham Greene (Ex Sherriff Warren), Sawyer Jones (Aiden)

From the visionary world of acclaimed director Scott Cooper and horror maestro Guillermo del Toro comes ANTLERS.  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.  Based on the short story “The Quiet Boy” by Nick Antosca. 

Antlers is all about the slow build up and an understated tone that really helps to elevate this horror film.  What I loved most is how this film doesn’t try to do too much but does everything exceedingly well.  The lighting and cinematography are top notch. The movie has some brilliant scenes using light to keep you on edge, especially when people go into dark spaces.  The unease of not knowing what is in there, coupled with the rush of breath as they fully are engulfed in darkness is the perfect way to build up tension.  But it’s not just the darkness, the film also uses the flashing lights of police cars and the utter endless night of the Oregon wilderness to great effect.  Some of my favorite scenes were with police lights flashing in the fog, an unsettling and perfectly constructed effect.

The understated aspect also translates to the music, where you have this wonderful classical soundtrack.  It uses a lot of solo instruments to both emphasize the emptiness and loneliness of this place, and also to give a sinister tone to the film.  You don’t have full, boisterous musical arrangement, just a singular instrument playing against the darkness.  The film also has really great effects.  There isn’t a ton of blood and guts, but what is there is well done and looks unsettling and realistic.  Nothing breaks your suspension of disbelief in this film.

And the characters are also really well done.  They have a lot of mystery that you don’t really understand until later.  My favorite was Lucas, who again, does a great job by not doing too much.  His character is quiet, scared, and strong, and he does an amazing job of projecting an unsettling persona from the experience that the has endured.  And Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons also add a lot by not doing too much, with characters that don’t get overly emotional but still have plenty of unsettling baggage to contend with.

And this film wouldn’t be much of a creature feature without a creature, and thankfully this film also does that quite well.  It doesn’t show much, and when you finally see the monster it is unsettling but also smartly portrayed.  You don’t get a great view of it and when you do it does look otherworldly.  If there are downsides to this film, it is that the pace is quite slow, though I didn’t mind it at all.  Additionally, the film touches on the subject of abuse, but not quite with the care I would have hoped for.  Still, these are minor issues in an otherwise fantastically done creature feature.  

Antlers will hook you with its understated tone, fantastic music and setting, and unsettling use of light and gore to create an atmospheric creature feature with a slow burning, but very unsettling story.

Watch it.

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Antlers is available in theaters on October 29, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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