Written by: Matt Patti | October 28th, 2021
Antlers (Scott Cooper, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
About a year ago, I was infatuated with the urban legend of the Wendigo, watching several films and documentaries on the topic and researching the infamous creature online. In my research, I came across a short story called “The Quiet Boy.” This work of fiction comes from writer Nick Antosca and is one of the more personal, intimate stories featuring a Wendigo that I’ve ever read. I found Antosca’s work quite compelling and unique and I also discovered that it would be adapted into a feature film in the near future. Enter Antlers.
Antlers stars Keri Russell (FX’s The Americans series) as Julia Meadows, a young school teacher who lives with her brother Paul (Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah). Julia takes a keen interest in a seemingly poor, lonesome child in her class named Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas). Lucas is a quiet boy who doesn’t have any friends and wears shoddy, old clothes that have many holes in them. When Lucas gets into a fight with another boy at school, Julia attempts to contact his parents but to no avail. Growing impatient and concerned, Julia follows Lucas home one evening after school. She discovers that Lucas lives in a desolate house at the bottom of the mountains and wonders if he lives there alone. Unfortunately, as Julia further explores the house, she finds that Lucas is hiding a terrifying, devastating secret.
Antlers entices the viewer from the get-go, drawing them in to a compelling mystery that is more horrific than imagined. For me, personally, since I had already read the source material, I knew all the main story beats that were to take place. Yet director Scott Cooper (Hostiles) still managed to catch me off guard with a few surprises and some truly shocking sequences. For those that have not read the short story, I can only imagine how thrilling and intense the film would be. The film features many tense scenes and disturbing imagery to accompany the bloodshed that unfolds. The creature design of the Wendigo is very well done and is strikingly different than many other Wendigo designs I’ve seen put to film, providing a fresh, unique take on the creature.
The performances in the film are all top-notch, but I am specifically impressed with young Jeremy T. Thomas as Lucas. Thomas manages to pull off a cold, chilling demeanor while also at the same time having the audience sympathize with him and root for him. Undoubtedly the film’s most compelling character, Lucas is mature for his young age and tackles many responsibilities most kids would never even imagine having to shoulder. He is brave, calculated, and extremely intelligent but also has that naïveté of a child that makes him human. Thomas is able to flawlessly bring these characteristics of Lucas to his performance.
Antlers is not a perfect film, however, as it has its fair share of small issues. There is a very unnecessary, out-of-nowhere information dump about Wendigos about halfway through that feels out of place. Some of the characters make very questionable and downright stupid decisions at times, leaving the audience baffled. There are also a few unrealistic actions performed by our protagonists that seem like a bit of a stretch. However, Antlers gets its conclusion right, sticking the landing with an emotional, memorable ending that is sure to leave viewers satisfied. In the end, Antlers is a triumphant feature-film adaptation of Antosca’s creepy tale, successfully capturing the dark tone and unnerving atmosphere and adding some unforgettable visuals and exceptional performances to bring the story to life.