The long awaited Scott Cooper (“Hostiles,” “Crazy Heart”) horror film finally hits theaters this weekend, just in time for Halloween. Plagued by pandemic delays, the prolific filmmaker once again delivers the unexpected in what has become his dark, brooding, signature format.
While Cooper’s screenplay sets the tone early on with discussions about folk lore, spirits and myths, the perfectly paced, slow-burn horror film doesn’t spare the viewer anything when it comes to violence. In fact, “Antlers” is so disturbing in some parts, with elements of cannibalism and violence related to children, I would caution certain audiences about the graphic nature of what they are likely to see.
Cispus Falls, Oregon, is the place where dreams go to die, and Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) certainly understands this better than most. Growing up in an abusive household, she returns years later, moving back into the family home with her brother Paul (Jesse Plemons), now the local sheriff. Unsettling events begin to occur around one of Julia’s students, as people from the meth addict-plagued town begin to disappear, only to be found later ripped to pieces.
One of Cooper’s strengths as a director is creating these sobering environments. “Out of the Furnace” is a good example of the same type of dried-up industrial town presented here.
“Antlers” is like an excellent episode of “The X Files,” but without the FBI arriving to solve the mystery or save the day. The forgotten residents of Cispus Falls are own their own. Horror- genre fans always yearn for darker, more disturbing stories, and Cooper leans into that notion — but be careful what you ask for.
‘THE HARDER THEY FALL’
If you are staying in this spooky holiday, Netflix has quite an entertaining ride with “The Harder They Fall.” This isn’t your grandfather’s western: From the creative opening credits, the mixture of rap, reggae and soul replace the stereotypical country music you might expect. The charismatic Jonathan Majors (“The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “Hostiles”) is finally given the lead role he has proved again and again he was ready for. Idris Elba and Regina King star as the big-hitter villains with much personality and flair.
The film opens saying while this is a fictitious story, these were real people. Like most Westerns, we find ourselves in Texas, with the Nat Love Gang avenging the death of his family. Colorful characters on both sides break Western genre cliches left and right. Writer/director Jeymes Samuel’s creativity with the music, editing and snazzy camera work dazzle the audience for a good 90 minutes — until he steams past the necessary and wears out his creative welcome.
ONE MORE MOVIE
If you can make it past the first 15 minutes of the new film “Mass,” you’ll find profoundly realistic performances from cast Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton and Reed Birney.
The conversation between parents who are dealing with the grueling aftermath of tragedy is intense, even though it takes some annoying preclusions to get there. If you’ve ever wondered how parents of victims or parents of instigators cope in the aftermath of a mass shooting, Fran Kranz film takes a deep dive that’s equal parts cathartic and uncomfortable. The final grade for “Mass” is a C+.
Final Thought: “Antlers” is likely the best horror-genre film of the year with “The Harder They Fall” reinventing the western genre once again.