Keri Russell takes on a horned wendigo in bizarre folk horror flick


As the film titles go, “Drink”Seems ready for one of the two holidays – Christmas or Halloween – and it’s a bit of a shame to see it wasted on the latter. Now, what is an enterprising filmmaker supposed to call his revisionist Rudolph story when the time comes? The name is a little less obvious to the director Scott Cooperis a dark, character-centric stab with supernatural horror, though that does make sense once you realize this slow-burning monster movie, set in Oregon, is all about Native American legend. of “wendigo,” according to which an evil spirit possesses people and turns them into deadly moose-horned creatures with an appetite for human flesh (at least in this iteration).

Cooper has dabbled in many genres over the course of his five-movie directorial career, though there has been a constant darkness in anything that puts horror squarely in its wheelhouse. Executed with style and perhaps a little too much importance, his work has traditionally focused on the fault lines of the American condition, whether it be violence (“Black Mass”), racism (” Hostiles ”) or addiction (“ Crazy Heart ”), and all of those themes crash here to a frightening effect.

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What makes the “Antlers” motivated by suggestions so disturbing is not so much the tension and dread mechanics of the film as the way the filmmaker sinks into the minds of its two main characters: the abuse survivor turned elementary school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri russell) and her soft-spoken student Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), in whom she is able to recognize red flags that remind her of the trauma she experienced as a child. Something incredibly wrong is going on at home for Lucas, and Julia is uniquely positioned to identify the problem and intervene on his behalf – at least that’s what “Antlers” maintains, although the “it takes” philosophy. one to know one ”can sometimes seem a bit simplistic. .

Developed and primarily sponsored by producer Guillermo del Toro, the film is based on Nick Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy,” which the writer adapted with co-writer Henry Chaisson. In Cooper’s hands, he retains the core element of a caring teacher for a boy struggling with far more responsibility than someone so young should have to face. The most effective horror movies aren’t just about scaring audiences – though they have some really scary fears – but exploring the deeper social issues that piss us off. In this case, we are faced with a small American town in decline, where employment opportunities are scarce, opioids plentiful, and relations with local Native Americans are lagging behind.

After a disturbing opening scene, in which Lucas’s father Frank (Scott Haze) and younger brother Aiden (Sawyer Jones) are attacked by a giant creature in an abandoned mine, Julia notices some darkness in his student. Asked to share a story in class, Lucas tells a story far too dark for someone his age. Upon further investigation, she finds a pile of drawings hidden in her office that appear to have been made by a serial killer, all of sharp teeth and bloody animals. His alarm might seem obvious, but keep in mind that no one in town knows what happened in that mine, or how Lucas spends his time after school: trapping wild animals, butchering them, and chopping them up. feed to Frank and Aiden, who keep on growling / moaning behind a heavily locked door.

Horror movies featuring terrifying transformations are usually motivated to let out the monsters, where they can rack up the victims for the benefit of a bloodthirsty audience. In that case, whatever havoc the wendigo might wreak on the town, it’s nothing compared to what it does to poor Lucas at home. There, with his father off duty, he is forced to play hunter, father and decision maker, and the weight of that responsibility clearly eats him alive – not to mention the bruises and lacerations on his frail body.

There are several metaphors at work here, the most obvious being the overplayed cliché of an angry Native American spirit seeking revenge for what the white man did to exploit a land that was not his own. departure (it is still “Poltergeist” in this respect). Much more disturbing, if you will allow me the pun, is the film’s emphasis on how a child copes with being forced into the role of an adult when their parents are otherwise unable. . When Julia’s police brother Paul (Jesse Plemmons) explains that Frank is a drug addict, it is understood that Lucas probably had to intervene in the past, taking care of his brother when Dad was away or wasted.

Flashbacks to Julia’s own complicated childhood – coupled with not-too-subtle shots in which she struggles to resist buying alcohol at the local market – reinforce the bond she feels with Lucas and why he’s so important to she to protect him, no matter how awful. her domestic situation could be. She has no idea what to expect, of course, but facing it serves as penance for Julia running away all those years earlier and letting Paul deal with their abusive father.

At one point, the wendigo breaks loose, causing the carnage that audiences have probably been expecting from the start. (The design of the creature is somewhat disappointing – almost inadvertently comical – until it is revealed that the beast is still wearing Frank’s face as a mask.) Anyway, that stuff isn’t so scary than what Lucas is dealing with, especially when it comes time for him to accept that Frank and Aiden cannot be saved and must instead be destroyed. The psychological scars are almost too hard to imagine, although Del Toro doesn’t hesitate to subject the children to such hell.

It has become a genre necessity that movies like this can never fully kill the monster, but it would be a mistake to misinterpret the ending as a crass sequel setup. Just look at what Julia forced Lucas to do and now think about what is asked of her.

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