Directed by Scott Cooper.
Starring Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan, Cody Davis, Sawyer Jones, Arlo Hajdu, Glynis Davies, Dorian Kingi, Andy Thompson, Jesse Downs, Dendrie Taylor, and Emily Delahunty.
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.
With his first stab at horror, Scott Cooper has crafted a bleak, creepy, deeply unnerving folklore creature feature that smoothly functions in tandem with his trademark slow-burn, moody style. Handpicked by Guillermo del Toro for the project (credited as an executive producer), Scott Cooper’s Antlers imposes a feeling of weakness that lingers throughout its 100-minute running time. That’s partially due to the freakish monster design that only grows more intimidating as it evolves from feeding (its final form is unholy, blending man and monster), but also the sensitive examination of childhood trauma that, while maybe underdeveloped in the end, is nonetheless realized with several symbolic shots.
There’s a trifecta of terrific performances in Antlers, but newcomer Jeremy T. Thomas as psychologically traumatized child Lucas, son of a neglectful meth addict (Scott Haze), is bursting with a quiet instability, barely holding it together. That also makes sense considering following an attack inside a cave, dad and brother Aiden (Sawyer Jones) are left to transform into something feral and sinister.
The emotional weight comes from these characters’ actions and how it relates to their trauma, although the film is a much more affecting piece of work when taken as a pure horror experience. Antlers is slightly uneven thematically but conveys enough through dialogue and visuals to leave an impression. You feel helpless, both for Lucas and against the nightmare fuel creature on the loose.
Tickets can be purchased here.
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com