The Screen Scene: Antlers

The Screen Scene with Scott Phillips

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A few weeks ago I gave you my thoughts on There’s Someone Inside Your House, a new Netflix original horror film. Last week I wrestled with Halloween Kills, the disappointing new installment in a horror franchise that’s been with us for over forty years. Viewers might be asking: Does The Screen Scene only cover horror films now? The answer is no, but in the month of October, it may be hard to tell the difference.

Just as horror fatigue may be setting in for some, writer-director Scott Cooper brings audiences his take on a Pacific Northwest horror myth with his new film Antlers. The movie was originally slated for a 2020 release, and ping-ponged from one release date to another during the pandemic. Is it worth the wait? Well, you can certainly delay your viewing a couple more months until it hits VOD or streaming platforms to decide for yourself.

Antlers is a dark film, literally and thematically. Nearly every scene is dim and dingy. Characters are smudged with grime, dirt or blood almost constantly. While it’s clearly a visual story-telling choice by Scott Cooper, the film’s darkness and despair become overwhelming, even oppressive. The legacy of the so-called “torture porn” films of the early 2000’s is still with us: horror equals suffering. The problem is that watching characters suffer for a hundred minutes isn’t exactly a great night at the theater.

In the opening of the film, a young boy named Aiden accompanies his dad to “work” at a local mine. Dad orders Aiden to remain in the truck while he finishes up for the day. The camera follows his father down, down, down into the depths of the mine … where dad has a meth lab set up. In short order, Dad and his meth-cooking buddy start hearing animal noises, and every horror fan knows that one or both of them are about to meet a grisly end.

From this obligatory opening scene, we cut to Keri Russell (The Americans) and Jesse Plemmons (Game Night, The Suicide Squad) who play two siblings with a grim past. Russell is a teacher in the local school system, and Plemmons is the local sheriff. Aiden’s brother, Lucas, is one of Keri Russell’s pupils, perfectly positioning her character to look into the disappearance of Lucas’ father. A simple welfare check soon spirals into a supernatural tale based on Native American myth.

Antlers left me wondering if Native Americans have only one myth because this story has been filmed many times before. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend better alternatives without giving away the plot. Suffice it to say that a great cast gives solid performances in service of a story that you’ve seen dozens of times.

In horror films, originality is what keeps the genre fresh, and Antlers feels like Scott Cooper settled on the first horror narrative that came to mind.

Antlers opened in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 29th. I’m a committed supporter of the theatrical experience, but even if you’re a diehard horror fan, you can wait until it hits home video.

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