By Liz Lopez
This is a horror film. Perhaps not so much because of the creature itself, but what the two elementary school aged boys endure in the film. It could give parents and/or grandparents nightmares. To be very honest, in the first five minutes of the film (or so) when I saw the younger child (played by Sawyer Jones), not follow his father’s instructions to stay in the truck while he finishes some work, I felt like walking out of the theater from the cold chill I had. Now this may not affect everyone the same way, but just the thought of what might happen was effective enough and I know this film achieved what it set out to do. I noted how the film speaks of the creature as part of the Native American culture. It was referred to as a “myth” by the locals, but when a Native American elder is consulted in the film, he provides his perspective which is also well written and performed.
Antlers is directed by Scott Cooper based on Nick Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy” set in a small Oregon town. The screenplay is by Cooper, Antosca and Henry Chaisson. I have not read the short story that has been adapted for the film to see how the creature is described, but in the script it is identified as a wendigo, a deerlike creature from Native American culture leading back to an unspecified time of damage(s) done.
Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) is a teacher who has returned to her former hometown and resides in the family home her sheriff brother Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons), inherited and kept all the years his sister was gone. She does not have fond memories of the town, nor their father. She has a student, Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) who absolutely appears to have issues, likely related to his home life. He maintains a secret about what has happened to his father (played by Scott Haze) and younger brother. There is a transformation in progress and Lucas is trying his best to keep the family surviving together despite the horror he endures daily.
Principal Ellen Booth (Amy Madigan) sounds hesitant about taking action when Julia consults with her about identifying a child who seems to be undergoing potential abuse/neglect. Paul tells Julia not to go to the home, but Ms. Booth decides to investigate on her own and finds what Lucas is living with. Once the creature is out the door, it is fatal for many. Trying to stop it is another story. There is a portion of this effort by Julia that does not have the impact I was anticipating at that point – it is not quite as credible, but otherwise the film achieves its goals.
The cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister is exceptional and composer Javier Navarrete created the excellent score. Additional Cast: Andy Thompson, Arlo Hajdu, Cody Davis, Graham Greene, Lyla Marlow, Rory Cochrane, Produced by Guillermo del Toro, and others.
Run time: 99 minutes MPAA rating: R for violence including gruesome images, and for language
In theaters: October 29, 2021
Source: Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures