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Poor Monsters and Monstrous Poverty in „Antlers“

Poor Monsters and Monstrous Poverty in „Antlers“

The moments when Scott Cooper’s ambitious foray into the horror genre comes closest to being truly terrifying instead of just jump-scary are those featuring a far more insidious evil than the CGI creature shedding the titular horn. The connection between these two is one of the more interesting, if ambiguous aspects of a monster movie which ultimately fails to overcome the latent bias of its sketchy source story. Nick Antosca’s The Quiet Boy looks at the cold, derelict white trash setting with a distanced disdain compromising its teacher protagonist Julia’s (Keri Russell) concern for her alarmingly withdrawn pupil Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas). 

What the tattered son of an addict single father hides at home is horrifying not so much for its crawling, gnarling voracity but as twofold metaphor for abuse, neglect and indigence. Their destructive influence manifests as a demonic disease described by a pre-text as „preying upon the weak“ which reinforces the construct of hardship as the result of personal failure and of those suffering it as a threatening the community. Julia’s fight against the Wendigo of First Nation’s mythology thus becomes more than a cathartic confrontation with her own childhood trauma. Representative resilience, respectability and responsibility stands against infectious depravity and procreating precariousness. 

Shades of pitiful humanity granted Luca’s possessed toddler brother only reinforce the determination to relentlessly expurgate these (thanks to special effects) abominations with human faces whose psychological pollution spreads to family, friends and alleys. This supernatural commingling of separate social groups linked by stigma, addiction and impoverishment reveals a white Christian establishment’s irrational fear of an indecipherable unity among the marginalized. Thus the Wendigo’s insatiable craving for flesh serves as monstrous metaphor for a hunger that won’t be quenched by food stamps or symbolic politics. To witness this paranoia of a visually and figuratively demonized destitution is the moody mise-en-scene’s true horror.

  • OT: Antlers
  • Director: Scott Cooper
  • Screenplay: Scott Cooper, Nick Antosca, Henry Chaisson 
  • Country: USA, Mexico, Canada
  • Year: 2021
  • Running Time: 99 min. 
  • Cast: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan, Cody Davis, Sawyer Jones, Arlo Hajdu, Dendrie Taylor, Glynis Davies, Dorian Kingi, Emily Delahunty, Andy Thompson, Katelyn Peterson
  • Release date: 29.10.2021 (US), 28.10.2021 (GER)
  • Image © Walt Disney
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