Despite its predictable story Antlers is a visually impressive and an all-around solid creature feature. What can I say, I’m a sucker for movies where some kind of monster slowly kills off the cast. Especially if the special effects and cinematography are good and they were excellent here. The monster is a Wendigo, a vengeful Native American evil spirit that looks really vile. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s start from the beginning. The story is set in a dreary mining town in the firm grip of the opioid epidemic along with the rest of the issues that poverty brings.
And while this isn’t exactly the type of atmosphere you would want for your horror movie I appreciate the thought. We who live in urban areas often forget just how soul-sucking and depressive life is in the rural counties. Not that we don’t get our fair share of issues but we’re talking about a whole different level of existence. Although I will admit that the messaging feels heavy-handed and contrived at times. Still, I prefer this blend to those slow-burning indie dramas.
At this point, I thought that Antlers is going to be an homage to all those seventies and eighties eco-horror movies. Wolfen is the first one that comes to mind as it also features Native American myths. But I was wrong. With the ungodly sounds coming from the dark depths of an abandoned mining shaft I knew this is going to be a classic creature feature. And it was. Featuring a rather dark atmosphere and steady pacing, Antlers struggled to maintain tension. And while there was some pretty nasty gore I wish they’ve used more of it to go all-in.
As Julia returns to her hometown in Oregon to work as a teacher in a local school, she struggles with a lot of issues. She’s a recovering alcoholic trying to heal after a horrific incident in her youth. However, her thought will soon be preoccupied with the condition of one of her students, young Lucas Weaver. He seems tormented by something and Julia is determined to figure out what’s going on with him. Little did she know that Lucas is hiding a horrific secret not just from her but the whole world.
Character development feels like it came straight from the random character development app cranked to the max. Each scene serves a purpose that’s usually related to the main character trait that the movie is trying to demonstrate. And there are no scenes where people are just being people. This is a mistake writers oftentimes make. Just have some random interaction or a scene that’s not propelling the story forward or hammering in some points. Also, it’s funny how all these tormented kids are great graphic illustrators. Luckily the cast was excellent and made the most out of this situation.
It was really nice to see Keri Russell again. I mean, if anyone can fuck up this Wendigo it’s motherfucking Elizabeth Jennings. Jesse Plemons also known as Matt Damon 2.1 was also good and the kid was fucking fantastic. Remember the name Jeremy T. Thomas as I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more of him in the future.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Native American horror movie without Graham Greene, another familiar face that brought a smile to my face. In the end, with a runtime of just over ninety minutes Antlers is a solid modern horror movie definitely worth a watch. Try to look at it as a myth or a grim fairy tale to take the edge off its flaws.
If you’re looking for something similar check out Bone Tomahawk, The Burrowers, or even perhaps moody and heavily flawed Canadian horror Blood Quantum. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Ravenous, a fucking masterpiece that’s just gotten better and better as years go by.
Director: Scott Cooper
Writers: Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, Scott Cooper
Cast: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Sawyer Jones
Fun Facts: The narration at the beginning of the film is in the Ojibwe language, still spoken nowadays.