Antlers is a horror film directed by Scott Cooper, releasing in 2021. Frank Weaver runs a meth lab out of an inactive mine. While his 7-year-old son Aiden waits outside in his truck, Frank and an accomplice are attacked by an unseen creature.
Its three weeks later and 12-year-old Lucas Weaver (Frank’s eldest son and Aiden’s older brother) spends his time roaming the town, collecting roadkill and killing small animals before taking them home. Lucas’s teacher, Julia Meadows, is alarmed by his strange behaviour and frightening drawings. She attempts to bond with the troubled boy. She soon begins to suspect that Lucas is being abused and becomes determined to help him. It’s revealed that Julia herself had suffered childhood abuse at the hands of her mentally ill alcoholic father. Julia’s father’s recent suicide led to her return to Cispus Falls to be with her brother Paul. Paul is now the local sheriff, and whom Julia feels guilty about abandoning when she was younger. Julia visits Lucas’ rundown home and hears strange sounds.
A flashback shows Frank survived the attack. Then, he set up a locked room in the attic after returning home with Aiden, who was attacked as well. Frank demands that Lucas should keep them locked inside no matter what. Lucas is now feeding his sickly, and now-ravenously feral father and brother with the animal carcasses he finds.
Half of the remains of Frank’s accomplice are found in the woods by former sheriff Warren. Paul and Warren later discover the other part of Frank’s accomplice in the mine along with a part of an antler. Meanwhile, Julia pressures the school principal Ellen into paying Frank a visit. Ellen discovers the room where Frank and Aiden are locked up, which she unlocks and enters. Frank kills Ellen before antlers burst out of his body. Frank is now transformed into a savage antlered creature.
Warren identifies the figure as a wendigo, a legendary creature that appears as a ravenous, cannibalistic spirit and jumps from person to person. It can only be killed when it is weakest: as it is feeding and to extinguish its beating heart.
Antlers is what I would describe as a competent horror film. It has some positives, it has some negatives. It isn’t great but not bad either, just middle of the road. Nothing wrong with that right? Let’s get into it. Firstly, the entire concept surrounding a wendigo is something that isn’t used as often in horror as more classic monsters like; zombies, vampires, demons and so on. Therefore, it gives the film a fresh, unsuspecting feel which is nice. While you’d think the concept is ripe for some serious scares and horror, the film goes for a much more subtle approach. The main theme here is that of parental abuse and from my interpretation, drug use and addiction. The real focus of the film is Julia’s dark past and her attempting to reconcile for it by saving Lucas.
Talking of Lucas, I can’t say that I truly felt or understood his motivations. I get it, the idea the film presents is the complex idea of loving someone regardless of their faults. However, I don’t think it showed me enough between Lucas and his dad to buy into it. I wanted to see more confliction but it doesn’t deliver. Could this be due to the acting? You be the judge on that one.
There are moments of bloodshed but it’s kept more in the background, mostly likely due to budgetary constraints. You do get a good look at the Wendigo and even though it’s very dark, I thought it looked pretty great.
Overall, Antlers is juggling with a lot of complex themes at the same time as trying to deliver an enjoyable horror film. Does it succeed? I would have to say unfortunately, no. The pacing on the whole is pretty slow. It doesn’t flesh out its ideas enough and its plot is far too dependent on characters making dumb decisions. However, I would still say it’s at least worth a single watch but nothing more.
The Final Score - 6/10