Director Scott Cooper (Black Mass) navigates through plenty of misfortune and luridness in a deceptive horror picture. One that hits home more from its notions of safety and nurturing.
The accomplished, branching filmmaker works with executive producer Guilemo del Toro (The Shape of Water) in adapting a short story by Nick Antosca (The Quiet Boy) allows the metaphorical and psychological to meld with the supernatural. In thoughtful, if discomfiting ways that makes the angst of its primary characters and those of its setting resonate more than its monstrous displays.
Atmosphere exudes from the sleepy mining town of Cispus Falls, Oregon with the jolt of an onset including a father (Scott Haze) and younger brother (Sawyer Jones). What’s been discovered during a strong economic decline had shaken the locals and baffled the law enforcement like clueless Sheriff Paul Meadows (Jesse Piemons of Jungle Cruise)
The combination of the macabre and trauma will have recovering alcoholic Julia Meadows (Keri Russell of Waitress) and Paul’s sister bonding gradually with a reclusive timid student Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas). These kindred folks bear such disturbing stuff in their souls that may leave more than a few on-lookers frazzled.
Opening up about an abandoned mine and eerie desk drawings dovetails with taking care of the ‘wild’ In building off the ancient Native American myth known as the “Wendigo”. There are malevolent apparitions and morphing and their tenancy becomes downright serial-killing visceral. Not for the faint of heart is this kind of ambitious art-house exercise.
The last act in particular lets the del Toro imprint come effectively to the fore as genre fans will appreciate the chills that do appear. What Russell (who’s blossomed the most on the small-screen from two decades ago in Felicity) and Plemons as the older brother do is often effective in trying to unveil something so upsetting as Thomas does his best to hold his own as the clandestine loner. Antlers cuts sometimes too painfully into the cross-hairs of opportunity that sadly has mental ramification.