Directed by: Scott Cooper
Written by: Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, Scott Cooper
Antlers follows middle school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) as her concern for student Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) leads her to discover that the child’s home life isn’t just troubled, but dangerous. Along with her sheriff brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), Julia discovers that an ancestral legendary creature has a grip on Lucas through his father (Scott Haze) and younger brother (Sawyer Jones).
I wanted to like this movie so badly. It’s produced by modern horror royalty Guillermo del Toro, stars actors I’ve enjoyed in other projects, and is centered around a monster from Native American mythology, which is a really cool concept for a big-budget film. Overall, though, I was disappointed. First, let’s start with the elephant in the room: despite the movie being based around a Native American legend, there is only one named Indigenous character in the film (Warren Stokes, played by Graham Greene), and his main role seems to be to dump a couple minutes of sloppy exposition on the protagonists. This could have been a great chance for a blockbuster movie to highlight Native American culture, and a few lazy and throw-away lines make it seem like they wanted to at least pretend they were doing that, but for the most part, it was a disappointing missed opportunity.
The cultural problem isn’t the only writing issue in this movie. It’s badly paced; at barely over an hour and a half, it isn’t a long movie, and it could have used even an extra 15-20 minutes to flesh out the story and made it feel a little more balanced, but as it is, the beginning is a slog, and the development of the monster part of the story feels rushed. Additionally, several of the characters (specifically Amy Madigan’s Principal Ellen Booth and Rory Cochrane’s Daniel Lecroy) make decisions so stupid that it’s impossible for me to suspend my disbelief.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy in this film. The cinematography is beautiful, and setting a horror movie in bleak, foggy small town Oregon works well. Russell and Plemons both give solid performances despite the less than impressive material they have to work with. And the young actors, Jeremy T. Thomas and Sawyer Jones, do incredible work, especially considering they go for long stretches without any dialogue, and I hope that we see them in more projects going forward.
While this isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen, it’s by no means good, and I have no interest in revisiting it. A friend told me the short story it’s based on is good, though, so that might be worth checking out.
Have you seen ANTLERS? Well, what did you think?