By Milan Perera, Arts Writer
The wait is finally over. The much talked about Scott Cooper movie has hit the screens after a long hiatus of 18 months. Cooper joined forces with the acclaimed producer Guillermo del Toro and the writer Nick Antosca in this visual masterpiece which makes the long wait even more worthwhile.
This is Scott Cooper’s first attempt at the horror genre whereas his previous works focused on social pariahs haunted by socio-economic anxieties rather than fantastic beasts lurking in the twilight. Based on Nick Antosca’s short story Quiet Boy, the screenplay is a collaborative effort of Antosca, Cooper and Henry Chaisson.
The story is set in a former mining town in Oregon, once prosperous but now run down with deprivation and addiction which might not see another generation. Julia Meadows (played by Keri Russell) is a teacher at a local school who returned home after the recent death of her abusive father. She shares the home with her brother (Jesse Plemons) who is the sheriff of the area. Julia has taken a keen interest in the well-being of one particular child, Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), whose unusual behaviour raised some alarm bells. After learning that Lucas’ mother recently passed away and that he is living with his drug-addict father, Frank, Julia fears the worst. Being a victim of domestic abuse herself, Julia feels that it is incumbent on her to take Lucas under her wings, about which brother Paul disagrees. Recently Frank was attacked by something unspeakable while producing narcotics in an abandoned mine. Both father and brother are affected by this “attack” and are house bound while Lucas is busying himself with finding “roadkills” for them! Frank is transformed into something violent and feral where Lucas locks the door hoping he would not embark on a rampage.
The chief culprit behind the mayhem and destruction is a wendigo as found in the Native American folklore and often appears with antlers. The action unfolds at a slower pace as opposed to an adrenaline pumping neck-breaking pace as seen in similar genre specifics. Cooper, whose forte lies within realism, seems to use the idiom of horror to highlight wider issues faced by individuals and communities on a subliminal level. A wendigo could conceptualize an individual or an apparatus whose insatiable greed for excess could bring destruction to their surroundings. As I write this, Cop 26 is in full swing in Glasgow where the world leaders are seeking to avert global catastrophe by reflecting on our collective actions. No doubt this would strike a chord with what is unfolding at Cop 26.
Russell and Plemons shine in this movie for their stellar performances, but it is a great shame that the talents of Amy Madigan and Graham Greene were not utilised as they are given rather banal two-dimensional characters.
Cinematography is the biggest strength of Antlers where the control of light (most accurately the darkness) and forced POV shots make you lean over to catch a glimpse of the action. The brooding presence lurking in the twilight on misty hills masterly augmented with the spine-tingling score by Javier Navarette makes a perfect synergy for a horror movie.
Featured Image: IMDB, Florian Hoffmeister
Did Antlers spook you out?