Antlers : Film Review

Antlers (2021), directed by Scott Cooper and based on the short story ‘The Quiet Boy’ by Nick Antosca, has in its promotion highlighted the production role of Guillermo del Toro, to whose films Antlers shares some similarities but shows some differences. Like a number of del Toro’s movies the principal backstory concentrates on children growing up in difficult circumstances, but the delivery here is darker and more desolate than del Toro’s presentations. That for me personally is not a problem, I like bleak movies. Another difference is that even though there is potential there for it, Antlers does not really share del Toro’s sympathy for monsters. Again personally I have no problem with that, but had the film been longer I would have liked to have seen more indication of the character of Frank Weaver (Scott Haze) and his relationship with his children prior to the strange and brutal circumstances that befell them.

Frank Weaver, a single father following the death of his wife, supports his family by brewing and selling Methamphetamine in a town in Oregon that has been beset by social and economic difficulties (actually filmed in beautiful British Columbia). Whilst in an abandoned mine that he uses as a lab, he encounters a very strange and very dangerous creature. His colleague and his son Aiden (Sawyer Jones) are both also attacked, his drug partner being killed outright. Following the assault, Frank and Aiden begin to sicken and grow increasingly feral. Locked into a room, they are cared for by another son Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) who brings food to them, which in the case of the father often consists of roadkill. Dealing with being a young home carer to his father and sibling in the weirdest and direst of circumstances, as well as coping with the grief of losing his mother, has a noticeable effect on the child. He is overly thin and his clothing is threadbare. Small, quiet, insular, poor and unconventional, Lucas is sadly the target of bullying. This concerns his new teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) who has returned to the town where she grew up, sharing her childhood home with her brother Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons) following the death of her father. A victim of childhood abuse herself at the hands of her father (her mother dying whilst Julia and Paul were still children) upon seeing the character and condition of Lucas as well as his grisly drawings, fears that the boy may be a victim of abuse at home. The school principal (Amy Madigan) pops around the child’s home to assess the situation and that is when hell breaks loose.

The delivery of the film situates itself between a slow-burn social realism horror and a more mainstream creature-feature, which doesn’t in this instance for me completely work. The horror SFX are fairly visceral and delivered well enough but they seem somehow a bit out of place. I would have preferred more of the gore and violence to have been implied rather than shown, but the literal nature of the beast in this film is bloody so a proportion of viewers may have felt that to remove this component would dull the film. Again, because of treading two stylistic paths it could perhaps be felt that not enough characterisation was given to certain roles, situations and backstories. The amount of attention given to Julia and Paul’s own childhood trauma and grief feels perhaps underrepresented but film has a limited timescale generally and the time allocated for the overall narrative is enough where Antlers is concerned; if this film were any longer it would be too long. This is not because it is a bad film that I wanted to end as soon as possible, but because the horror aspect of it that dominated the final third played out following familiar tropes in a more conventional horror film manner and in that sense did not offer anything really that has not been seen before.


Because the story is based on the lore of the Wendigo of some Native North American peoples, but has been made by predominantly non-native creators and cast there is the risk of potential exploitation / appropriation and of colonial-hangover misrepresentations of the ‘Other’. Although some viewers / readers may feel generally weary and wary of sociopolitical considerations in film-making and reviews, if as a creative you are inspired to write about and film an aspect of another culture, whether for fiction or documentary purposes, I believe there is a duty of being sensitive, respectful and factually correct. (Personally as an artist who frequently works with the folklore and legends of varied cultures, I don’t believe that non-sacred lore is necessarily off-limits to representation by someone of a different society or ethnicity nor that mythic representation should be racially segregated at all, but I do believe that it is important that appropriate attention is given to the beliefs and considerations of other people and that no exploitation occurs.)

I watched Antlers with my girlfriend Erin, who has Mi’kmaq ancestry and who holds an interest in Wendigo mythology, and I was curious to see what her opinion of the film would be. There is the matter that the main protagonists are all white, with the only First Nation character, Warren Stokes (Graham Greene) seemingly only being there to give exposition to the police and school teacher regarding Wendigo lore upon seeing the child’s drawings and the medicine protection put up in the tunnel meth lab. The main family in this film could have been Native American, but if them alone, a risk there would be a negative representation as the family were socially troubled and the father (though perhaps by necessity to provide for his family) was a criminal. To have all the cast Native American could’ve been a possibility but that would remove the discovery and shock element of the supernatural invading regular life for the Wendigo concept would likely have already been familiar to all concerned. However, due to the relevance of native belief to the film’s core it would have been good to see a stronger First Nation role and presence. Although the Wendigo is a spirit, it is not a sacred figure as such so the film does not demonise a god or religious tenet. The Wendigo myth though is more than just a fireside bogey man story for it represents a Taboo – a forbidden practice – namely that of cannibalism. In times of famine some Native American tribes would hold a ceremony to remind and warn of the prohibition and spiritual danger of anthropophagy.

For Erin, the meteorological setting of the film was brought into question, for winter is seen more as the time of starvation and would have befit the film better. Set at the dirty end of autumn, Jack o’ Lanterns still on display rather than Christmas decorations, there is a chill in the air and damp a plenty, which does certainly add to the bleak atmosphere, but a wintry setting would perhaps represent desperate hunger more. The social realist aspect of the plight of the afflicted family with Lucas’ emaciated condition and desperation to find food for his increasingly ravenous family does symbolically relate to the myth as perhaps does the father’s production of methamphetamine- a drug that can diminish appetite replacing it with a craving addiction and in the cases of prolonged addiction lead to the emaciation of the user as if they were being devoured from inside by a possessing spirit.

Wendigo by Andy Paciorek from Spirits of the Season: Portraits of the Winter Otherworld by Dr Bob Curran & Andy Paciorek

The physical appearance of the Wendigo is a debated point. Warren Stokes’ description of it in the film does state that it can take different forms. This applies also according to the old lore. In some cases it humanoid but very wizened and gaunt, in other tales it is seen as a gigantic figure and in others more animal than man. The antlers which give the film its name and one of the strongest individualistic representations of the Wendigo are not always to be found in the older myths. For Erin and many though, the antlers are an integral factor in the form and nature of the Wendigo. Its representation in the film is done well enough and the final transformation from human form into that of the monster is a distinctive element of the movie, though I myself am undecided whther it revealed too much and that less would be more or whether it is needed for the film to make a distinctive stamp on the cinematic genre.

In conclusion, I think I liked Antlers but did not love it. Further viewings may endear it to me more or possibly leave me colder. It promised more than it delivered, that there was something not quite fulfilling about it but perhaps that is the way it should be, like a Wendigo hunger that cannot be satiated and always a craving for more.

Review by Andy Paciorek & Erin Sorrey






Beyond the pale. into 2018

There have been several notes of Thanks issued from the Folk Horror Revial Inner Sanctum over the last few days. I do not need to repeat all individual names but I do need to to echo again the great gratitude to those that made a great year for Folk Horror Revival. There has been difficulties along the way but also a lot of fun, talent, hard work and generosity that has really taken some of us from moments of despair into joy of the creation of something special and sincere. So again Thank You very much, you know who you are or should do.

The year culminated with Winter Ghosts and presented here is a poem written especially for the event by Erin Sorrey. Erin has been a great support to me through the year and FHR journey as well as being a talented element of the Revival itself . Much love, thanks and respect.

Myself (Andy Paciorek), Darren Charles and all the Folk Horror Revival cult wish you all a peaceful, pleasant, prosperous and a somewhat horrifically haunting 2018.

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WINTER GHOSTS

The dark sky meets the dark sea,

Guardians of eternity-

A mystic gateway.

 

From off the ocean, sweeps a spectral howl.

Spirits lost in fathoms and tides;

Are beckoned by the frosty shore.

Nostalgic for decades gone-

The past where they pained and played.

 

I hear echos in the waves which I cannot explain,

Drowning exclamations and whispers.

The cold nights lure me here;

Strolling aphotic, empty piers.

 

I raise my collar to the icy wind-

As the awakened dead, wander cliffs and sand.

Words and Image ~ Erin Sorrey 

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white noise

to walk upon the crystal dust
of frozen rain and tears
the ghosts of winter
still follow in my wake
of the tracks
of my fallen footsteps
a silence of echoes
a stirring of souls
that glitter like yule lights
in charnel grounds
and beneath cathedral peaks
shadows cast by lunar rays
and electric lanterns
and dissipate
like melting snowmen
into white noise
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Hark @ Whitby 2: Alternative Yule: Erin Sorrey & Andy Paciorek

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Over the festive period, to be found at Stuart Duckett Design Store, Bar, Gallery and Record Lounge  in Whitby, is a rather fine assemblage of dark seasonal art on exhibit. Over the next few days (Yuletide festivities withstanding) we will showcase some of the marvelous artists on show. But go see the work for yourself, they also do some damn fine coffee.
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Erin Sorrey is a Canadian poet and artist. She attended The Ottawa School of Art, and works in a variety of medium.

She is inspired by the ocean, the ethereal shadows, the romance in the depraved, the beauty in the abyss, and her own lunacy.

 

 

More of her work can be seen at ~

Glass Coffin +
Velvet Razors
~~~~~~~

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Andy Paciorek is a graphic artist, drawn mainly to the worlds of myth, folklore, symbolism, decadence, curiosa, anomaly, dark romanticism and otherworldly experience. He is fascinated both by the beautiful and the grotesque and the twilight threshold consciousness where these boundaries blur. The mist-gates, edges and liminal zones where nature borders supernature and daydreams and nightmares cross paths are of great inspiration.

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Hark is on show at the Stuart Duckett Gallery until 2nd January 2018

Hark @ Whitby 1: Alternative Yule: Decadent Drawing & Eolith Designs

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Winter Ghosts – tickets available now from Here

New Year Horrors List

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As the Queen and Government have messed up a bit with their New Year’s Honours (Doddy ok fair enough but Posh Spice?? ) we here at FHR are doing our own Honours list for New Year (and we may very well do one at Summer Solstice or sometime else also, )

So We are delivering ODD honours (Order of the Double Denim) to the following -firstly some of those who have passed …

Posthumous acclaim to ~
~
Robin Hardy
Christopher Lee
Peter Vaughan
Colin Wilson

Amongst the living our Thanks to the following Honorary presences for their great support to FHR and / or the fantastic work they do in our sphere of interests. 🙂 So stand up (or sit down whatever is comfier … Sir or Dame …)
~
Alan Lee
Bob Beagrie
Caroline Wise
Richard Littler at Scarfolk Council
Roger Linney
Julia Jeffrey
Gary Lachman
Eamon Byers
Ramsey Campbell
Becca Thorne
Sharron Kraus
Shirley Collins
Iain Sinclair

~~
Special Thanks of Support go to ~
Christina Oakley Harrington @ Treadwells
Geraldine and Bali Beskin @ Atlantis
Viktor Wynd @ The Last Tuesday Society
Steve Toase
Nick Brown
Tom Oldham and Nathaniel Metcalf @ the Folk Horror Film Club
To all the Administrators and Moderators of FHR
and a personal Thank You to Erin Christina Sorrey for the support and inspiration given to me (Andy P. )

An Otherworldly Thank You

 

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poster © Becca Thorne

I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to Everyone who made the Folk Horror Revival British Museum weekend truly Otherworldly.

Firstly Immense gratitude goes to Jim Peters whose hard work on this event was incredible and immaculate. Thanks also to the fabulous work by our compere Chris Lambert, the administration work undertaken by all our team, those present at London and those who kept the group running in our absence. Thanks to the British Museum staff, Treadwell’s Books, The Atlantis Bookshop,and The Last Tuesday Society & The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities for their great support and kindness. To our incredible speakers and guests and to all Revivalists that came along. We hope you enjoyed yourself.

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Photos © Jason D. Brawn

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Photos © Marc Beattie

Thank You Very Much to Shirley Collins, Reece Shearsmith, Iain Sinclair, Gary Lachman, Adam Scovell, Bob Beagrie and his great musical support to Leasungspell, Michael Somerset and the Consumptives, James Riley, Lee Gerrard- Barlow, Sharron Kraus,Gary Parsons, Darren Charles, Eamon Byers, John Pilgrim, Katherine Sherry Beem, Matthelos Peachyoza, Phil Rose, Stuart Silver, Dr John Callow, Rich Blackett, Cobweb Mehers, Peter Lagan, John Chadwick, Dan Hunt, Scott Lyall, Graeme Cunningham, Richard Hing, Carmit Kordov, Andy Sharp, Bob Fischer, Andrew McGuigan, Andri Anna, Becca Thorne, Stephen Canner, Harri Pitkäniemi, Jackie Taylor, Säde Säjké, Grey Malkin, Erin Christina Sorrey Jonas Halsall at Tyrant Design and Print, all the contributors to our books and music mixes and Status Quo, and if I have forgotten anyone a thousand apologies, blame the absinthe

All the support we have been shown and given has been phenomenal and very deeply appreciated.

Thank You
Andy Paciorek

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Photo © Candia McCormack

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Merchandise by Jonas Halsall at Tyrant Design and Print

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http://www.theatlantisbookshop.com/

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https://www.treadwells-london.com/

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http://www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org/museum-curiosities/

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More images and further information about the event to come over time …

Glass Coffin: The Art & Poetry of Erin Sorrey

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ANCESTORS

Amerind around the eyes

Cheekbones which speak of the past,

When I was wild.

My soul still knows

In my heart beats an animal;

A feral beast

And an eagle flying free.

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Erin Sorrey is a Canadian poet and artist. She attended The Ottawa School of Art, and works in a variety of medium.

She is inspired by the ocean, the ethereal shadows, the romance in the depraved, the beauty in the abyss, and her own lunacy.

More of her work can be seen at

Glass Coffin +
Velvet Razors

and in the book  Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads

All Images and Poetry © Erin Sorrey and not to be used without explicit permission

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