The Reel Review
A middle school teacher and her brother, the sheriff in a small mining town in rural Oregon, become involved with a lonely, malnourished young boy with a horrifying, dark secret, in this supernatural horror/mystery. It is based on Nick Antosca’s short story, “The Quiet Boy.”
Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons are the well-meaning siblings who are each processing their own family childhood trauma in this very dark supernatural tale produced by Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labrynth). It is young Jeremy T. Thomas (Lore, The Righteous Gemstones), however, that stands out, as the psychologically traumatized youngster seemingly unaware of the imminent danger he faces. There is a very hungry Wendigo dwelling inside his meth-addicted father, and his insatiable appetite for roadkill soon evolves to a taste for the local townsfolk in spectacularly gruesome fashion.
Amy Madigan (The Hunt, Field of Dreams) is the concerned school principal, with Graham Greene (Wind River, Dances with Wolves) the former sheriff who explains the origins of the mythical Native American monster. It begs the question: Is the creature’s arrival mere coincidence, or the product of the community’s depressing and seemingly hopeless quagmire of poverty, drug addiction, and child abuse?
Director Scott Cooper (Hostiles, Crazy Heart) does an impressive job layering his supernatural horror within the real life horror of despair and hopelessness that haunts economically depressed parts of rural America. You can almost smell the dankness and decay of the dimly lit town, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest. The only weak spot in Antlers is a finale that feels a bit contrived compared to the more chilling and effective scares leading up to it. But with plenty of gore and some shocking, jump out of your seat scares, that is easily forgiven, for what almost certainly will be the most terrifying horror movie of 2021.
• Although set in Oregon, Antlers is a Canadian production, filmed in the Fall of 2018 in Hope, British Columbia.
• Antlers marks the third time Jesse Plemons has played a sheriff, after 2017’s American Made and 2018’s Game Night.
• A Wendigo is an evil First Nations mythical spirit known for invoking insatiable greed/hunger and the desire to cannibalize people.