Antlers (2021)

Scott Cooper

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan

After the pandemic saw it's release date pushed back twice, the latest feature from Scott Cooper is finally being released. Adapted from Nick Antosca's short story entitled The Quiet Boy, the story follows school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) living in a small Oregon town with her brother Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff. They become concerned about one of Julia's students, a young boy named Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) who is secretly keeping a supernatural creature inside his house.

Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the story feels like a terrific collaboration of the Oscar-winner's style with Cooper's. Brought alive with stunning shots and lighting, the crumbling of this poverty-ridden town is felt through resigned conversations about families with children being regularly evicted, or parents taking their children out of school to push product. It's unsure when the rot set into this town, yet it's assuredly long before it was at the grip of this dark fable.

Recently returned is Julia, who can see how much things have changed since her youth. Flashbacks hint at the dark childhood which made her flee, while her brother remained behind with their father. It's clearly difficult for her to back at the source of such trauma, although she's determined to ensure that isn't something other children should experience, and Keri Russell conveys that exceptionally. Alongside an ever-reliable Jesse Plemons, this is a well-acted piece across the board, although these acting talents are outshone by Jeremy T. Thomas, a revelation in his first feature role. He puts a soulful performance into Lucas, a haunted child who feels alone after tragic circumstances, creating horrifying drawings as a visceral cry for help.

Alongside the harsh issues depicted with fantastical elements, there's room for gore and gruesomeness which are effectively brought alive thanks to excellent make-up and practical effects. Aided by a fantastic creature design, there's some nightmarish ideas in play which'll tickle horror fans, although the pacing may leave some checking the time rather frequently. One wishes the siblings' trauma was handled more skilfully, and it's difficult to not feel short-changed when the final confrontation feels unfortunately rushed. Despite these issues, this is an effective tonal blend worth one's time.

Antlers is available in cinemas from October 29th