Child abuse and animal deaths define new creature feature Antlers | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Child abuse and animal deaths define new creature feature Antlers

click to enlarge Child abuse and animal deaths define new creature feature Antlers
Photo: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
The short story "A Quiet Boy" by Nick Antosca follows a schoolteacher at a school in Oregon as she tries to uncover what is going on with a quiet, sad, malnourished student in her class. She investigates, and the story turns supernatural very quickly.

Antlers, a new horror film directed by Scott Cooper and produced by horror/fantasy auteur Guillermo del Toro, is based on the story, and follows it closely, even down to the same character names. The main protagonist, schoolteacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), moves back to her childhood home in Oregon to live with her brother, local sheriff Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons). Like the short story, Julia becomes concerned for a student in her class, Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas), and assumes he is being abused. As described in a synopsis, Lucas' "dark secrets" soon lead to "terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature who came before them."
Using backstory, the movie sets up that Julie may have also experienced abuse, but it's presented in an incredibly confusing way. Brief flashbacks and a few lines of dialogue between Julia and Paul are all the audience get, with no deeper explanation. It seemed like it was going to come into play at some point and be further explained, but it never was. All audiences have the pleasure of seeing is a flashback of a grown naked man rocking back and forth in a bed, crying.

The terror of the movie also relies heavily on animal deaths. You don’t really see the act of animals being killed, but you do see the aftermath. While gore is usually a staple for horror movies, the animal gore edges on gratuitous here.

From a purely scare-related standpoint, Antlers does deliver, with suspense and terrifying visuals, up until the actual creature reveal. As explained in the film, the creature, a Wendigo, comes from Native American folklore. While everything leading up to the reveal works, the promised Wendigo is disappointing, making me wish they had left the creature at least mostly unseen. This can be said for many horror movies, especially modern creature features, because of the reliance on CGI. 

The ending seemed to imply either a possible sequel or that there will truly never be an end to the horrors the characters experienced. Out of these, I hope it is the latter.

Antlers is now playing at MovieScoop Waterworks Luxury Cinemas, AMC Waterfront 22, Cinemark Monroeville Mall, and other area theaters.

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