Antlers is the horror movie you need to see this Halloween

Photo credit: Kimberly French
Photo credit: Kimberly French

Horror fans are a bit starved for new movies this Halloween unless they've held off on seeing Halloween Kills or fancy the horror-tinged Last Night in Soho.

Enter Antlers which, after being delayed from April 2020 and then February 2021, finally arrives in cinemas this Friday (October 29). It could prove to be unwittingly perfect timing for anybody in the mood for something different this spooky season, although you'll need to prepare for things to get grim.

Based on the short story by Nick Antosca, the movie centres on teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) who has returned to her family home in Oregon to live with her brother – and local sheriff – Paul (Jesse Plemons). She left years earlier due to their abusive father and finds herself worrying that one of her students is in a similar position.

After Lucas (Jeremy T Thomas) tells a frankly terrifying tale based on Goldilocks in class, Julia sets out to find out more about his family life. But what she discovers is far more frightening than anything she had imagined...

Photo credit: Kimberly French
Photo credit: Kimberly French

For a creature feature, Antlers isn't afraid to take its time to set up the tension. The initial focus is on exploring generational trauma, while the mystery of what the hell is happening in Lucas's house plays out in the background.

We know from the cold open that his father Frank (Scott Haze) encountered something in the town's abandoned mines, but director Scott Cooper keeps it in the dark for as long as he can. He teases us with glimpses in the shadows of Frank's horrifying transformation, so the worry is that when the creature is unleashed, it'll never live up to our imagination.

Fear not though, Antlers contains one of the best on-screen horror creatures in years. The influence of producer Guillermo del Toro is clear to see, but this is unlike anything he's done. It's a terrifying, awe-inspiring and beautifully designed creation that we don't want to spoil even a bit. All we can guarantee is that once you see it, you won't forget it.

While the movie is a slow-burn horror for the most part (potentially too glacially paced for some horror fans), Cooper doesn't let up once the creature is unveiled. There's a breakneck pacing to the final third that rarely pauses to let you off the hook, bar one awkwardly crowbarred-in exposition dump.

Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Antlers actually ends up being one of those rare horror movies where you wish you had spent longer in this world. Whether some chopping has taken place in the edit or not, the second half feels like it's in a race to the end and it jars against the measured first half. The central creature is so impactful that you wish you knew more about it.

The same could be said of the themes that the movie explores as they fade once the creature carnage starts. Keri Russell is too talented a star to not make the most of what she's given, so there's an emotional weight to her hero journey all the same. It's just that if those elements were fleshed out, we could have been talking about a genre classic.

As it is though, Antlers is still an extremely good and highly effective horror movie, whether you're here for the gore or the creature-based chills. It even goes to places you wouldn't expect a 'mainstream' horror to date go in a dark final blow that'll haunt you long after the credits have rolled.

Move over Michael Myers, Antlers is the horror movie you need to see this Halloween.

Antlers is out in cinemas on October 29.

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