Antlers review: A beautiful horror flick in search of a serviceable plot

·3 min read

Length: 99 minutes
Director: Scott Cooper

Producer: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Jeremy T. Thomas, Scott Haze, Sawyer Jones, Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons

In theatres from 28 October 2021 (Singapore)

2 out of 5 stars

Antlers is actually really beautifully made, for a horror flick.

The panoramic views of the Douglas fir canopies that dot the landscape shrouded in mist, and the corrugated mines, scenic lakes and rustic countryside of the state of Oregon are breathtaking to behold.

These elements really come together and complement the ominous pace and isolated setting in which Scott Cooper chose to film his latest thriller.

The film is an adaptation of the myth of the wendigo, a monster from Native American folklore.

Unfortunately for this particular beast, there's too much bark and not much bite, in spite of the fact that celebrated Academy Award-winning director Guillermo Del Toro has deigned to produce this meandering creature which fails to find a serviceable plot.

Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) is a small boy shouldering a huge burden. He is mercilessly bullied in school and constantly carries a dark, haunted look on his pinched features and skeletal frame. His father Frank Weaver (Scott Haze) is a druggie who, in the process of secretly cooking meth in a mine, uncovers an ancient horror from Oregon's urban legends, which apparently is a muscly, monstrous stag that doesn't believe in leg days.

Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, and Keri Russell in Antlers. (Photo: Disney)
Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, and Keri Russell in Antlers. (Photo: Disney)

Frank is possessed by the creature and is slowly mutating into a pulsating cocoon, and has to be locked up in the Weaver family's attic. Lucas's younger brother Aiden (Sawyer Jones) is also locked up alongside his father, sporting the same spidery black veins that course through his body.

Child actor Thomas's Lucas is convincingly prodigious in portraying the underaged, tortured soul who has to provide for his family singlehandedly. Instead of doing normal things boys his age would do, Lucas spends his time after school scavenging in the forest for carcasses of dead animals to bring home and setting up traps.

Lucas's teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) observes him behaving suspiciously, making disturbing drawings of black and red gashes. She pursues the matter and tries to build rapport with the child, only to be stonewalled repeatedly.

Her brother Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons), who is also the town sheriff, starts getting reports of missing people and mutilated corpses. The two figure that something is amiss, and their paths converge to uncover the mystery that plagues their small town.

For all its cinematic mastery, Antlers fails to pass muster when it comes to the bigger picture. The ancient creature, which is never named, is artfully depicted in the film in a way that it is never fully revealed to the audience, only through flashes of janky camera angles.

Yet, the film tries desperately and falls flat in trying to ratchet up the tension, which is never really allowed to build up fully and lands awkwardly in a rather cliched and lame ending.

The plot device is straightforwardly banal and just as gaunt as Lucas, lacking a fully fleshed out lore for the stag monster and its true intentions for being unleashed upon the world. The result is a headless carcass that is admittedly beautifully rendered but devoid of personality.

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