antlers movie review

‘Antlers’ Review – Slow Creature Feature Eventually Delivers

Guillermo del Toro lends his production expertise to a deeply atmospheric and disturbing creature feature in Antlers.

Guillermo del Toro and atmospheric gothic horror films go hand-in-hand like nothing else in the film industry; the guy just gets it right so often. Previous films such as Crimson Peak (2015) and, of course, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) have cemented him as a maestro of the sub-genre, so naturally, his involvement in this project was met with much excitement. Director Scott Cooper, whose previous projects include the crime biopic Black Mass (2015), expressed much excitement about the project before release, despite never really delving into this genre.

The weakest elements of this film have nothing to do with the creatives mentioned above, at least not directly; the weakest element is the script. The writers went for very allegorical themes here, with drug addiction and desperation brought about by poverty being the leading ones explored. The issue comes with an extreme lack of subtlety in how they are delivered. Many scenes will feature the main character(s) in these outlandish situations of panic and horror and then almost grind to a halt to remind you that this means X, Y and Z. It was jarring, to say the least, and somewhat ruined a quite effective horror romp.

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Scott Cooper shines here with his direction, no doubt under strict advice from del Toro. The monster in the film is treated like a dreadful figure that does not and will not go away. Those familiar with Cryptozoology and American folklore will be delighted with the reveals this movie presents with its villain. The fantastical elements are presented with a blunt realism at first, but throughout the film, the weird factor gets amped up to the point of near farce.

This movie rides the line well due to the performances, namely Jesse Plemons, who continues to show why he is a criminally underrated presence in Hollywood. His character is beaten around and rung through the washer as much as humanly possible, with the eventual resolution being immensely satisfying in a truly creepy way that will get under your skin. Keri Russel also gives a fine performance, with her character being in this devastated place the whole time, a character-actor’s dream, no doubt.

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Antlers looks great and has a consistent tone that elevates the otherwise weak material. The feel and look of the dark woods and its surroundings are truly otherworldly, although one can’t help but feel as though if del Toro had been behind the camera, the subject matter would have been just that little bit more fantastically brilliant. Even still, Cooper does a fine job.

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Antlers delivers on its initial promises of a wild creature feature eventually, but there’s a lot of obvious allegorical storytelling and boring character drama to get to before the movie really picks up. The performances elevate somewhat weak source material, and the effective direction is not to be ignored either. Del Toro continues his run as the gothic horror master, although his next project had better be another Ron Perlman-led Hellboy!

Fun Fact:

The first film directed by Scott Cooper since Crazy Heart (2009) not to have Masanobu Takayanagi as the director of photography as well as Cooper’s first digitally shot film.

Entertainment Value
Directed By
Scott Cooper
Keri Russell
Jesse Plemons
Jeremy T. Thomas
25 posts

About author
A film student from Ireland who is going to make films of my own in the future. Deserted Island film collection: Rocky 1-5, Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy, La Haine, Midnight in Paris, Jaws, and Cast Away (for inspiration). Best movie snack: Popcorn with Maltesers in the tub, sided with some overpriced theatre sprite.


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