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Review: Antlers (2021)

5 Star.png
5 Star.png

#Cinema, #Film, #movie review, #Horror

David North-Martino

Mar 25, 2022

Review: Antlers (2021)

Antlers (2021) is a horror film directed by Scott Cooper (Hostiles) and stars Keri Russell (Felicity), Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog), Graham Green (Dances with Wolves), and Amy Madigan (Field of Dreams).

Antlers takes place in Cispus Falls in central Oregon during modern times. The movie has all the elements of a western: a stranger has come to town, a young boy who takes the place of the damsel in distress, and a powerful old man who wants something from both the damsel and the hero. There are two old men actually, one living and one dead, and there’s even a sheriff. This should come as no surprise since Scott Cooper directed the revisionist western Hostiles (2017).

Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) has returned to the house she grew up in after beating the bottle and getting her life back on track. She works as a teacher at the local school and lives with her brother at the old house until she can get back on her feet. Her student, Lucas, is a troubled boy, with troubles that mirror her own, and she becomes obsessed with trying to help him. This all leads us slowly into the myths and lore of the Algonquin people.

As much as Antlers is a western it also has its roots in Gothic horror. Old abandoned storefronts, mines, and houses abound. The ever-present fear of the supernatural and guilt of what was done to the natives along with a curse that covers the town like a shadow.

Atmospheric and brooding, Antlers expertly draws us into its slow burn but never quite gives us a payoff. The cinematography is gorgeous and recalls aerial shots inspired by The Shining.

The problem here is that most of what happens outside of the supernatural is improbable. I spent most of the film thinking—would this happen in real life? The most important thing in a horror story is to set us firmly in a believable reality before ushering in the extraordinary. The film tries to cover some of these holes with dialog but never quite gets the job done.

Keri Russell holds her own here as the lead and has good chemistry with Jesse Plemons who plays her sheriff brother, Paul Meadows. Meadows has only taken the role of sheriff because nobody else will step up and shoulder the responsibility.

As horror movies go, especially modern horror, this is actually pretty good but probably too slow for a general audience. The eeriness is palatable but there is a lack of suspense and few scares outside of a couple of jump-scares.

Still, overall, I liked this film. It’s not perfect by any means but if you prefer your horror meditative, Antlers offers at least a little reflection once the final reel has finished.

Antlers is streaming on HBO Max.

Story Doctoring:
Adding more creature horror would be welcome. Even a few more jump scares would bring it up a star.

Rating: Three out of five stars

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