Child abuse, crony capitalism, environmental catastrophes, evil spirits, bullying, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health, single-parenthood, societal apathy…. the makers of the 2021 horror film ‘Antlers’ try to cram in so much into the movie, that a great story feels a little unsatisfactory by the end of it all. That said, Scott Cooper has directed a film steeped in folklore and fables that’s worthy of attention by all horror fans.

Plot overview – Something sinister happens to single-father Frank Weaver in an isolated mine, turning him into some sort of sick monster and it affects his 7-year-old son Aiden Weaver too. It’s up to 12-year-old Lucas Weaver to take care of his ‘sick’ father and brother. His teacher notices something is off with the little boy and tries to help, without realizing how dangerous the consequences are going to be.

Scott Cooper, Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca have worked on the screenplay and have done a fantastic job with how the film looks. Set in a small town in Oregon, the setting is gorgeous, with its blue streams, forests, mountains and yet there is something dark, desolate about the place. The terrain helps build the mood for a dark horror mystery surrounding the 12-year-old Lucas and his family.

Child actor Jeremy T. Thomas as the pale, thin Lucas keeps you worried about the boy’s character. Thomas looks like a lost helpless child, burdened with a terrible secret and scarred with terrible visual memories. He copes by drawing ominous pictures of what’s happening to him in a notebook. That’s how his teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) begins to sense maybe the boy is having trouble at home. While Russell does her brief quiet well, her character is given a traumatic past, which gets a lot more space than necessary. The story tries to connect the adult Julia Meadows with the troubled Lucas, two characters with an unhappy childhood. It’s an awkwardly forged relationship.

The climax is quite typical and leaves more unanswered questions than viewers would like. If only we could have gotten a little more on the creature “Wendigo”, that monster in the film, it could’ve been more satisfactory. The makers do give us a brief explanation of how the creature has its roots in Native American beliefs. But some later developments leave you wanting more insight.

Antlers does work quite well as a spooky horror movie. It could’ve been better. It’s a 6/10 from me.