Review by Dan Skip Allen
Scott Cooper is an established director, having directed some amazing films in the past such as Black Mass, Hostiles, Out of the Furnace, and Crazy Heart. But to this point, he's mostly worked in drama, not horror. Antlers is produced by a great filmmaker in his own right, Guillermo del Toro. He picked Cooper for this project so it must have been a good fit. It sure had me thinking, "Don't go in there!"
This story takes place in a small sleepy town in Oregon. A teacher (Kerri Russell) and her brother, the sheriff (Jesse Plemons), encounter a little boy and the gruesome secret he's harboring. This little boy is scary looking, making drawings and coming to school all dirty and smelly with scratches on his body. He's also very malnourished. This raises eyebrows for the teacher, sheriff, principal, and doctors.
This film has a lot of atmosphere to it. The cold, damp, and dark setting of Oregon plays a huge role in the film. The opening and closing scenes are straight out of a Bob Ross painting. They are magnificent to behold. That's it, though. the story and film get dark, gruesome, and bloody from there. Horror films need to set a mood and Antlers does that. Cooper is a perfect director for this project because he knows how to set the mood and tone of a film, no matter what genre it is in.
Del Toro is no stranger to the horror genre, but he transitional into more of a fantasy filmmaker with such films as Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water. Antlers has a fantasy vibe to it as well as horror. The mixing of these multiple genres lends itself to the scary and moody nature of this film. Cooper had the right mentorship to shepherd this horrific film.
All good horror films have to have either great creature work or great makeup and visual effects. This film has both. The makeup and creature shop work are both first-rate in this film. Having realistic creatures or monsters makes it easier to share with the audience. The audience will be scared at various scenes in the film. These moments are few, but very effective when they transpire.
Antlers had me from the opening scene of a great Oregon vista overlooking a lake and mountains. The very next scene was scary and bloody. This film kept the story moving very quickly yet let itself breathe as well. It wasn't trying to get over quickly. These characters got to stretch themselves within the script and that was very effective for the overall story.
Jeremy T. Thomas is a revelation in this film. His performance plays into the mood of the film brilliantly. He is moody and dark in his character arc. That was amazing! This kid is going to be the next Haley Joel Osment or Jacob Trembley regarding how people are going to remember him after this film is released in theaters. It will be well deserved in that regard.
Antlers has a style and vision all its own in the horror/fantasy genres. Being shepherded by Guillermo del Toro as the producer helped Scott Cooper create a new moody and dark vision of horror. The creature shop and makeup departments all do a stellar job. They bring the audience right into this horrific story. Jeremy T. Thomas is going to make people watching this film have a vibe from other great young actors. This film will be added to the renaissance of horror the last decade has brought forward.
Antlers hits theaters on October 29.