One thing is certain about Antlers: the atmosphere reigns here. So much so that he practically suffocates from it.
Overhead: eternally gray skies pouring sad rain. Beneath your feet: wet leaves everywhere, signaling endless autumn. In the city: rust, despondency. In the foggy forest: disturbing sounds; growls, growls, growls.
And the outskirts of the city: a dilapidated house with black corridors and creaking doors. Upstairs: howling, knocking, something nonsense.
Director Scott Cooper is really critical. He does not add any modulation to the elements of horror in his festival of fear. Everything is gloomy, gloomy, gloomy. And doom.
Quite a lot of doom. People are torn to shreds. Gnawed. Pierced with horns. Oh. The reason for the name.
A monster from Native American mythology, a creature named Wendigo, loots through the forests of Oregon, where the action takes place in “Horns”. (Guillermo del Toro brought his distinctive visual sensibility into the design of the beast.) This threatens the townspeople, non-indigenous people, who have invaded his territory. It’s not good to fool around with Mother Nature, because she will unleash hell in the form of a creature whose appetite is “never satiated,” according to one Native American character in a movie played by Graham Greene.
He reports that the more he eats, the hungrier he gets.
However, this perspective is a secondary plot at the heart of the story, which involves a lonely, frightening-looking boy whom Jeremy T. Thomas plays with an eternal aura of ghosts.
The disturbing and violent drawings of a demon with horns he draws in class draw the attention of his high school teacher, whom Keri Russell plays with unwavering somberness. She understands that this is a sign of a problem child.
She intuitively knows that these are signs that he suffered abuse, probably at home. She intuitively understands this, because she herself has experienced violence. In fact, she fled her California home to this small town in Oregon, where her brother (Jesse Plemons) is the sheriff. There she hopes to heal her wounded psyche. The meeting with the boy again reveals those still damp wounds.
Based on a screenplay he co-wrote with C. Henry Chasson and Nick Antoska, Cooper clearly conceived of Horns as an exploration of child abuse. But he paints with such a wide brush and makes his thoughts so obvious that the picture hardly rises above the level of the message: child abuse is bad.
There are also hints of social pathologies such as drug crime (the boy’s father has a metabolic lab) and white supremacy (in the news briefly off-screen). As these pathologies unfold, there is a feeling that the flags are being ticked off. There are no nuances here.
And everyone is amazed at Cooper’s clumsy handling of elements of horror. In a key scene, someone enters a dilapidated house outside the city. The character knocks. Nobody is answering. The character enters and perceives the all-pervading darkness. The character hears growls and rumblings from above.
In such a situation, having perceived all this, a normal character would run away, run away, skidded, jumped out, left footprints and called the police, or, possibly, launched an airstrike. But no! Typical character for horror films … Goes. Up. Ladder.
Of course he does. This is what the characters in films like this do. While the word pops up in the minds of the public: Stupid!
This is not the only time this word is applicable. Thus, the Horns blunt the edge and blunt the edge of the cliché.