After multiple long delays, the much-anticipated Antlers finally arrives with some bloody and gruesome scenes, which are the film’s highlights. Still, it tries to tackle too many topics simultaneously, hurting its ending and structure in the process significantly.
After the father and little brother of young Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T Thomas) go missing in a small-town in Oregon, Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) and her brother Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, discover the young boy is holding onto a dark secret that will have blood-curdling consequences if they don’t deal with it sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, Antlers is about what you most expected it to be about, which is worrisome because you’d expect a bit more from a project produced by Guillermo del Toro. Most of its runtime centers on trauma while young and of the troubles of growing up in a broken family.
However, it then goes in many directions, trying to find a smooth spot to get all of its themes in order. Unfortunately, Scott Cooper’s filmography proves he doesn’t know how to conclude a film. Antlers keeps your attention at high during its first act, as its sound design is pulsing and its atmosphere and color scheme are as dark and eerie as the secrets that lie underneath the surface of the creatures bound to come. Nevertheless, the second and third are more of the same tropes with lackluster scares that you find in poorly constructed chillers. There is a feeling that Cooper wanted this project to stand out from his other outings, a project where he could blend the horror genre with allegorical and parabolic elements.
He also tries to fit in a bit of Native American mythology onto the already bloated mixture, but none of the metaphors and outlines of dramatic junctures gel. You continue to watch because, in a way, there is something beguiling and exciting about it, and I am a sucker for body distortions in horror flicks, which this film has a tad of. Some spine-chilling scenes also make you want to stay for the finale, even though you know where things might be going. The structure that Cooper is trying to forge together is destined to fail; there are too many intangibles and loose ends left to be tied to its narrative. He attempts to use mythos to vindicate the sheer cruelty and trepidations while setting up a more grounded arc dealing with poverty and family ties, but it never really works.
Nothing works in half or full effect. When you compare it to other horror releases this year, it doesn’t match up to most of them. It doesn’t have the boldness and allegory of The Feast nor the scares and style of Censor, leaving it with mostly nothing to hold on to. The final clash with the creature is ridiculous, and the shocks are dull; why are horror films like this still being made? As a massive fan of the genre, it is disappointing to repeatedly see these terrible ventures. Of course, there are a lot of exceptions, one of the best films of the year won the Palme d’Or, Julia Ducournau’s TITANE, but not every director is going to craft something of the sort. I just wish those directors who want to go and make such films manage them with originality and an erudite vision.