I feel like I have been waiting 100 years for this film to come out. I remember seeing a trailer for Antlers in early 2020 and being so excited about the film because I find Wendigo’s to be particularly horrifying. Then, as we all know by now, the Covid-19 Pandemic hit (and still continues to hit will we ever be out of this hell dear god) and the film was delayed. When Antlers was finally released, it was a small release. Even in Los Angeles, the movie capital of the world, the film saw a limited release. And, as I’ve only gone to the movie theater sparingly as of late, I missed my chance to see the film on the big screen. And, man, am I kicking myself for that. This film was absolutely stunning, visually.
Antlers is written by Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, and written/directed by Scott Cooper. Starring Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, and Jeremy T. Thomas, Antlers tells the story of school teacher Julia Meadows (Russell) who becomes concerned about one of her students, Lucas Weaver (Thomas), when he begins acting strange and showing signs of abuse and neglect. Quickly, Julia and her brother/Sherriff Paul find themselves entangled in something ancient. Enlisting the help of a local Native American, played by Graham Greene, they quickly learn that there is a Wendigo in their midst, and they are all in danger.
Now, I don’t think that description really does the film justice. It doesn’t quite portray how intriguing this film is. It’s rare that we get a horror film featuring a Wendigo, so I’m always interested in the different ways they are portrayed, all the different ways they are shown to go from person to person. Every filmmaker or author does it differently. And, this film did it in a pretty gruesome way.
The cinematography, though, is what truly makes this film. With Florian Hoffmeister as the Director of Photography, we are shown a beautifully isolated Oregon landscape, that contributes greatly to the overall tone of the film. Honestly, if I get the chance to see Antlers on the silver screen at any point, I’ll take it. The sweeping landscapes, the scale of the mountains compared to the townspeople, all of it would be tremendous to see on a large screen.
The only real weakness that Antlers has is its writing. The writing isn’t bad by any means. Based on a story written by screenwriter Nick Antosca, it’s obvious that there was a clear vision here. However, the pacing seemed off. The film is just over 90-minutes, which doesn’t feel like enough time to really expand these characters. Everything felt very surface level in the film. For example, I would have loved to get more into the family dynamics of not only the Weaver family, but the dynamics of Julia and Paul Meadows. Throughout the film, those two characters touch on childhood abuse, but we never really get further than that.
It would have also been nice to have more of the “creepy” moments with the Wendigo. What do I mean by “creepy”? I mean those moments where the Wendigo impersonates a loved one. The moments where it sounds like a person yelling, but the thing making the sound is far from human. There’s only a handful of those moments in the film, but they are so effective in creating a tense atmosphere. I wanted so much more of that.
Jeremy T. Thomas as the leading child actor in the film did a phenomenal job. I am one who gets easily annoyed with child actors in horror films, in particular. It’s always hit or miss. This one was a hit. Keri Russell did a good job, as well, although I feel like Plemmons’ acting was a bit stronger. Again, I wish both actors would have been given more material to work with. Then we could have really gotten a stellar performance from the both of them. Although, Keri Russell does eventually kick some major ass, so that was pretty fun to watch. Oh, and spoiler alert, they do not even hesitate to have children die in this film. Honestly, mad respect.
All in all, Antlers was well worth my time for a 99 minute horror film. Again, it needed to dive a little deeper into the lore of the Wendigo and dive deeper into each character, but with how long this film has been delayed due to the world going to shit, I’m happy with it.
Antlers is streaming on HBOMax and Hulu at the time this article was written.