If you’re looking for a 100-minute long disappointment, a ticket to see “Antlers” is the way to go. From the underwhelming acting of Keri Russell (Julia Weaver) and Jesse Plemons (Paul Weaver) to the excessive gore and misguided use of Native stories, this movie is a bust if there ever was one.
Directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro, “Antlers” is a horror-drama about drug use and the Native legend of the Wendigo from the perspectives of a child and his teacher. This film attempts to draw parallels between addicts and monsters, but fails miserably in every way. The cinematography is the only saving grace of this movie but can’t save it from its poor storytelling, and even the sloppily drawn metaphors are lost in the endless haze of blood.
Considering that the screenplay was adapted from the poorly-written short story “The Quiet Boy,” it’s no surprise that the film came out stale and saturated in exposition. The screenplay was disappointing and had a habit of running awkward flashbacks over every realization by the characters.
Fortunately, two new faces — Jeremy T. Thomas as the main character Lucas Weaver and Sawyer Jones as his little brother Aiden — brought some much-needed light to an otherwise dim piece. Perhaps a big part of the boys’ success came from their characters’ tendencies to be quiet, or even silent. The rest of the film's writing left Russell and Plemons swimming in such dispassionate dialogue that there was no way for them to redeem themselves.
The plethora of carnage was equally, if not more, painful to sit through compared to the bad writing. Multiple audience members walked out of the theater during scenes depicting shockingly realistic acts of cannibalism and dismemberment.
It was almost as if Cooper couldn’t decide if he wanted a drama or a horror, so he was relentless in trying to create both by pouring blood all over an overly complex story of disrupted childhood. He failed at producing anything meaningful from drama and horror perspectives alike.
While the technical failures of “Antlers” are easy to register, more difficult to decipher are the issues of story origin. A significant part of the story is guided by the tale of the Wendigo, but the use of the monster is lazy and inaccurate.
The film’s sole Native character (one of two people of color featured in the entirety of the film) explains the story of the Wendigo to Julia, Lucas’s teacher, and Paul, the town sheriff, in a single scene, but otherwise remains silent or off-screen. His explanation is brushed off nearly entirely and could’ve been cut without creating any gaps in the knowledge or understanding of the audience.
Intermixed with the legend and addiction story is yet another half-baked storyline, one of child abuse. Seemingly created to allow for Julia — who was abused in the past — to empathize with an abused student, it was unnecessary and only briefly explained.
Much of the film was nonsensical and muddy. The attempts made at mystery were absolute failures. The final scene's suggestion of a sequel was so ludicrous that it caused a handful of audience members, including myself, to laugh out loud.
It’s not often that my favorite part of a movie is the part when I get to leave because it’s over. Everyone makes mistakes, but I just hope Cooper and del Toro don’t make another.
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Natalie Jude is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @natalaroni