As one would expect from a movie directed by the eclectic director Scott Cooper and produced by one of the best monster creators - Guillermo del Toro. Antlers is a fascinating, heart-gripping and dark movie. While one might think the title takes a piece from Santa's reindeer, the movie is nothing short of heartbreak, fear, pain, trauma and obscurity, nothing Christmas is known for. The movie is based on "The Quiet Boy," a short story by Nick Antosca.
The movie is set in a fictional town in Oregon. Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), a child-trauma-survivor turn school teacher, comes back to her home town to live in the same house she grew up in, alongside her equally damaged brother, Paul. She quickly becomes interested in one of her timid students Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas). This interest turns more worrisome when she finds out Lucas is an abandoned child going through more than a child his age should. This concern gradually leads to paranormal activities, showing the gradual deterioration of Lucas's father and brother to becoming wendigos and Lucas's inability to let them go.
Antlers is not afraid to highlight dark topics like childhood trauma, neglect, disregard to nature, dismissal of natives from their properties and addictions. Sadly, it fails to go in-depth with any of them. Even when Julia clearly sees herself in Lucas, the trauma in their individual lives and how it connects them isn't explored very well. Likewise, whether in a bid to quickly get to the part where the monster goes on a rampage, or an inability to create a more captivating story around each main character's grim story for fear of the viewer getting attached, Antlers forces viewers to abandon all hope of character development to make them focus on an over-saturated theme that White people are destroying the native's land, and a dangerous creature is here for revenge.
The producer's unwillingness can even be seen when Paul's (Jesse Plemons) hint of suffering from childhood trauma is never explored. This shows that Julia's trauma is brought up only to explain Lucas's and nothing more. This and many more elements are picked up to arouse viewers' curiosity but only to get abandoned. This is like the forest, which is teased and extensively faulted as far as Chekhov's gun is concerned.
These inconsistencies aside, Antlers is a masterpiece of a creation that brings out the utterly dark side of the world. It is not afraid to show this through its visuals, characters, and movie progression. The wendigo, the antler, not only depicts the monster from the native's legend but the ever-consuming greed of man. No matter how much you try to quench it, it will always find its way into the limelight. It takes Frank (Scott Haze), an addict but doesn't spare the innocent Aiden (Sawyer Jones). And while a character's transformation that is hinted at may mean a chance at a sequel, it also shows to what extent greed can go to exist and spread. No doubt, Antlers might not be everyone's cup of tea given the deep, dark and grim themes and symbolism, but for those who aren't scared to face the not-so-fun part of reality, it's a gem.