With spooky season in full swing, October has been giving us plenty of horror movies to sit back and enjoy. Antlers is the newest supernatural horror flick with producer Guillermo del Toro and director Scott Cooper at the helm. The film follows Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) and her brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), as they grow concerned about one of Julia’s students, who is harboring a dangerous secret.
Movies such as Antlers are a rare breed. An original film that isn’t based on an existing IP while exploring the creature feature genre is not typical. Furthermore, given the movie was filmed three years before its long-delayed release date, it’s a miracle that the film is getting an exclusive theatrical window. Fortunately, the film successfully pulls off what it’s trying to go for with a thrilling series of events that will keep you invested from start to finish.
This movie does an adequate job of combining the genre tropes with some very original thrills. The premise alone is much fresher than many of the typical bump-in-the-night ghost movies that the market has become saturated in. It feels like a story we’ve never seen before, and it is unafraid to be unapologetically strange.
During Antlers‘ opening act, it can feel as if the screenplay is holding the film back from being anything more than conventional. One of the main characters is a child who gets bullied and draws creepy things. None of this is particularly new or exciting, but it feels as if the film is leading the audience down a path of “oh, here we go again” before wowing them with an unconventional story and a creepy atmosphere that lingers throughout the entire runtime.
Many horror films, such as the classic Jaws, hide the monster from the audience for as long as possible, building the suspense and waiting for the perfect moment to show the monster. Instead, Antlers contains moments of tension but also has many scenes that put the monster on full display. In addition, there is a ton of enjoyment to be found in the movie’s excellent creature design and blend of CGI and practical effects.
The film features excellent performances from its entire cast. Russell gives a compelling performance in the lead role, and Jesse Plemons, who has already impressed this year with roles in Judas and the Black Messiah and Jungle Cruise, continues to give authentic, powerful performances that pull you to the screen. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the young Jeremy T. Thomas as Lucas, the young boy in the film who manages to be effectively creepy and carry a lot of the movie on his shoulders.
The film’s issues generally lie in its underbaked themes and characters who are well-developed, but their storylines don’t feel as if they amount to much by the end of it. The story could have gone to deeper places with the brother-sister relationship, but it ultimately never does. However, Antlers remains a well-crafted thriller with some excellent scares and a bone-chilling ending.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.
Disclosure: Reviewer saw the film at a critic screening for our Antlers review.