I love a mysterious horror film of this nature where the characters are confronted with something otherworldly. The trailers for Antlers were very well constructed and gave us a taste of the brooding nightmare that this film tells. The film does a wonderful job setting a proper mood and shows us some truly frightening/fascinating imagery. The cinematography and visuals on display here is impressive and fine tuned, no doubt about that. The downside here is that the script, in my opinion, is a bit too shallow and surface level. This needed to be longer and more in depth in order to really do full justice to this unsettling tale.
You can certainly tell that Guillermo Del Toro had something to do with Antlers. The imagery is eye popping. The special effects are so inventive and unique. The design of the creature and of the human to creature transformation is both creative and scary as hell.
Don’t mess with the Wendigo! Special effects aside, the look of just the town itself is also pretty mesmerizing. The director included some stunning shots of this cloudy depressing town. I especially loved the aerial shots of the foggy sky with all the trees.
Shots like this aren’t just obligatory either, they assist in adding to the sense of dread and loneliness that lasts all throughout. They succeed in creating some pretty darn effective suspense. During multiple scenes I felt that wave of nervousness. “Back up! Don’t go up there!” This is a scary one, that’s for certain.
The cast’s performances are all good. Keri Russell does a nice job playing the lead, a school teacher who has just returned to her home town. She made her character likable enough. Jesse Plemons always turns in a decent performance and even though there really isn’t much to his role here, he does his best with what’s on the page.
Jeremy Thomas does a very nice job, especially for his age, playing a young boy who’s family has been affected by this evil. And lastly, I really liked Graham Greene as the man who has a rich knowledge of what has descended upon this small town.
Now, as I mentioned, the downside to this film is that it’s just not as in-depth as it should have been. There are some pretty great things at play here but not enough is done with them. The runtime is too short to really tell an interesting mythological creature film. I think they would have been better off with a longer film that spent more time on the mythological details and a little less time on the characters hang-ups that don’t end up being pertinent to the story.
For example, there’s an emphasis on Russell’s traumatic past with her abusive father that really doesn’t matter to the actual plot. I understand they were trying to give her a connection with the boy, something to have in common, but a lot of it still feels pointless. Another example is the bullying that Thomas’s character endures at school. There isn’t a big purpose for it, it’s really just an old cliché that comes across as tired.
The pace felt kind of off too. The film feels slow in the first half and then as more and more horrific things unfold, the pace speeds up. The meat of the story feels too delayed and even when it arrives, it feels cut short. This script just doesn’t seem to let the story breathe properly and seems more concerned with its individual characters and their largely meaningless past issues than it does the fascinating mythological details.
This is a case of both misplaced priorities and trying to fit an interesting story into a certain runtime. Having said all that, in the end this is still definitely worth seeing due to the impressive visual accomplishments and the genuine suspense it elicits.
Antlers isn’t as satisfying as it could have been due to a script that misplaces its priorities but there’s still enough rich imagery and genuine suspense for it to be worth a watch.
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