a scared woman and young boy

Antlers is an entertaining nonentity. Though its trailer promises a meditation on the nature of storytelling, what it delivers is a serviceable monster film that breaks no new ground. With Scott Cooper directing and Guillermo del Toro producing, one might be forgiven for expecting more of this film, especially since it suggests from its first moments that it will be a story for our times. Antlers opens with a monologue from a First Nations woman describing the legend of the wendigo, an evil creature who possesses and cannibalizes human beings. The prologue suggests that the wendigo acts as an avenging force, wreaking havoc upon humankind on behalf of the abused earth. But therein lies the main problem with Antlers: It tries to be about far too much.

Perhaps if Antlers stuck with this one metaphor of avenging nature, the film might have more impact. Instead, it also attempts to make monstrousness a vehicle for drug addiction, poverty, and abuse. The result is a muddled conflict pulled in too many directions for what is, at its core, a simple concept: Something scary lives in the woods and is coming for us. Instead, we have an undermotivated monster whose insatiable hunger can’t truly terrorize because it has no discernible rhyme or reason. All this might be forgiven thanks to the admirable efforts of the actors: Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons elevate their requisite roles as believer and doubter while Jeremy T. Thomas makes an excellently unnerving child waif. But in 2021, it is disheartening to see yet another film based on a Native American myth which utterly sidelines its few Native characters.

Still, Antlers delivers a decent share of chills and a B-effort monster design in the eldritch del Toro style. See it for a better-than-average monster flick, but don’t expect innovation. R, 100 min.

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