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Film / Antlers

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"Once there were three bears that lived in a dark and wet cave above a small town. Big bear, little bear, and baby bear. Big bear, you should take care of the little bears. But big bear got sick, lost his job, and his insides turned black. One day, little bear came home, and big bear and baby bear were different. Big bear's sickness has gotten worse. Big bear has become more angrier and meaner, because they had no food, no meat. But they had each other."
Lucas Weaver

Antlers is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro and starring Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons. It is based on the short story The Quiet Boy by Nick Antosca.

Set in the town of Cispus Falls, Oregon, the film follows a small-town teacher named Julia Meadows (Russell) and her brother Paul (Plemons), the local sheriff, becoming entwined with a young student in her school named Lucas Weaver who is harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

The film was originally scheduled for release in the United States on April 17, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was postponed. It was eventually released on October 29, 2021.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Antlers contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Julia and Paul's father was physically abusive to both of them and sexually abusive to Julia (with implications that he may or may not have also been sexually abusive of Paul). Julia believes that Lucas is being abused by his father, but the truth turns out to be far worse.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the short story, Lucas' little brother's name was Todd. Here, it's changed to Aiden.
  • Adaptation Species Change: In the original short story, the animals in Lucas' story were wolves. Here, they are changed to bears.
  • Age Lift: Julia is 23 in the original short story. In the film version, she appears to be in her forties.
  • The Alcoholic: Julia. Although she never drinks during the course of the movie, her eyes linger on bottles of liquor whenever she goes to the counter of the local convenience store before she buys something else. Presumedly, drinking is of her problems that she is trying to deal with now that she is back in Oregon.
  • Asshole Victim: Clint Owens, a fellow classmate of Lucas, encounters the younger boy in the woods and taunts him by stating his house is full of "drugged-out freaks" and calls him various slurs before the Wendigo appears and feasts on the boy.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Subverted with a black bear shown already having been killed by Frank as a Wendigo, who is now munching on its carcass in the mines when Julia finds him with Lucas and Aiden.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Less sweet, more bitter. Julia manages to save Lucas, killing the Wendigo who was once Lucas' father in the process. However, Julia is shortly after forced to kill Aiden as well when he starts undergoing the process that would have eventually transformed him into another Wendigo, and after Julia and Lucas reunite with Paul as the film ends, Paul notices blood on his hand after a coughing fit, strongly implying that after barely surviving his encounter with Frank, he himself will soon become a Wendigo like him.
    • It's actually more of a Downer Ending because Lucas shows signs of being infected too. The last dialogue between Paul and Julia implies they both already know this.
  • Body Horror: The transformation from person to Wendigo is not pleasant to behold. First the body twists and contorts, with the hair falling out, and the body glowing as if burning from the inside, until eventually the full Wendigo form bursts out of the victim's body through the mouth, leaving a burnt-out husk behind. For Frank Weaver, the final form has his human face still hanging off his new one, at least until he peels it off while fighting Julia in the mine.
  • Creepy Child: Lucas and Aiden Weaver are both quite eerie, pale and gaunt from long-term neglect and malnourishment. While Lucas is forced to kill small animals and gather roadkill to feed his family, Aiden becomes more feral and inhuman as his infection progresses.
  • Death of a Child: Julia is forced to kill Aiden, Lucas' 7-year old brother, to prevent him from transforming into another Wendigo.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Despite being a repeat drug-offender, Frank was still considered competent enough to keep his kids. Even when Julia starts showing proof that Lucas needs some type of intervention, the principal seems reluctant to intervene at first.
  • Evil Is Bigger: The final form of the Wendigo is a hulking giant, easily larger than a bear.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: In a departure from more traditional depictions, where the Wendigo is associated more with ice and the cold, it instead has a burning motif surrounding it. Its presence is often preceded by embers and sparks floating through the air, and it has an internal glow that resembles a fire. When Julia rips out its heart, it's portrayed as literally burning hot, so much so that it burns her hands when she holds it.
  • Eyeless Face: The Wendigo doesn't appear to have eyes on its face, though it still appears to be able to see and even reacts to bright light.
  • Facial Horror: When Frank completes his transformation into the Wendigo, the titular antlers extend out through his mouth and we see the muscle and flesh connecting his jaws rip apart.
  • Fingore: Frank bites off Principal Ellen's finger before tearing her throat out when she blunders into his house.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Metaphorically, at least. The Wendigo is a being of pure destruction and endless hunger, with elements that resemble burning coal and crude oil. The film's setting is a dying mining town, where its desperate and hungry people are hoping to see the mines revitalized through new (more destructive) mining practices.
  • Horror Hunger: As is to be expected, Frank, after being possessed by the Wendigo, gets progressively hungrier, becoming more animalistic in the process, to the point where he viciously tears into any meat Lucas brings him. According to Warren, the more the Wendigo eats, the hungrier it becomes, until eventually it will eat so much its hunger will leave it weak and vulnerable.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Dan's fate, at the end of the antlers of the Wendigo.
  • Magical Native American: Warren certainly gives off the air of this, providing the spiritual leanings of the Wendigo and passing on the tale to Julia and Paul.
  • Mama Bear: Julia develops a maternal affection for Lucas and is determined to take him in and protect him. At the film's climax, she pursues him deep into the mines and fights the Wendigo to reclaim him.
  • Mercy Kill: What Julia does to Aiden. It is horrifying to imagine murdering a child, but having seen the true horrors of Frank's final transformation, in a way, she showed mercy by preventing him from suffering the same fate.
  • Missing Mom: Sandra Weaver, Lucas and Adien's mother and Frank's wife, is never shown. As evidenced by a photo Lucas is looking at and on his contact sheet, she died prior to the events of the film.
  • Monster Delay: Frank's final form is only fully seen in the final confrontation in the mines, and even the dark lighting makes getting a good view of it rather difficult.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: The creature was once Frank Weaver, and seems to remain attached to his children even as his humanity is completely lost. This creates a Papa Wolf versus Mama Bear scenario, since Julia and the Wendigo are both fighting to claim Lucas.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Julia's pressure on school administration finally convinces Principal Ellen to pay a visit to the Weaver household. Inside, she discovers the locked attic door and goes inside. Frank devours her and completes his transformation, before escaping into the woods to begin hunting victims.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: Lucas has a notepad full of graphic, disturbing drawings depicting the Wendigo myth and the transformation of his family.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The teaser trailer does a good job not showing the threat that exists in the film. At least until the last shot of the trailer features a terrifying creature (the Wendigo). Even that is mostly hidden in shadow (except for a flayed human face), however.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Wendigo's transformation has several similarities to this; it can be passed from person to person, early symptoms include vomiting blood and other signs of extreme illness before transforming into a mindless beast with a taste for human flesh.
  • Painful Transformation: Frank's transformation into the Wendigo is presented as this, with him depicted as painfully writhing on the floor as his hair falls out and he coughs up blood. Eventually, the full form of the Wendigo bursts out from inside him through the mouth, leaving Frank's original body as just a mutilated husk.
  • Papa Wolf: Frank, after being possessed by the Wendigo, still cares enough about his sons that he willingly barricades himself so that he won't hurt them. Even after fully transforming, he maintains enough of his old personality to not hurt them, seeking alternative sources of meat and attacking people he sees as threats to them.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The deaths or near deaths of Ellen and Paul can be directly and indirectly attributed to Julia. For the former, Julia somehow forgets to warn her that she heard very disturbing noises from inside the house when visiting the Weavers' house the first time. For the latter, Julia is so bad with time management that she could not be bothered to spend a second to grab the handset phone from which Paul was calling. She also doesn't have the obvious foresight to call him to warn him that the Wendigo had just at the very least gravely injured Dan and therefore that he should take extreme caution or call for backup if he is to arrive onto the scene.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Julia and the sheriff are siblings, while in the original short story they aren't related.
  • Sequel Hook: By the end of the film, Paul starts coughing up blood, hinting that after being attacked by Frank in his Wendigo form, he will become one as well.
  • Shapeshifting Sound: When Frank's transformation into a Wendigo reaches completion, there's a very audible sound of snapping bones as his final form slowly begins to emerge from his body, starting through his own mouth. In the finale, Frank's youngest son Aiden also begins the process of transforming into a Wendigo, and it's accompanied by the exact same sound of snapping bones.
  • Shown Their Work: The Wendigo is overall extremely accurate to the original legends, starting out as an emaciated corpse with bones visible just under the skin, which is an almost transparent white. Even after it reaches its final form, its long claws, exposed heart, and drapings of skin and bone have all appeared in traditional Wendigo lore. Really, the only distinctly modern touches are the antlers and the fact that the heart is made of fire instead of ice. Plus the creature doesn't seem to have any eyes on its face.
  • Silence Is Golden: The second trailer is done entirely without dialogue until the Wham Line at the end.
  • Sinister Deer Skull: The demonic wendigo at the center of the film is portrayed as having a monstrous cervine jaw with a huge mass of antlers atop its head.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Julia fares much better in the film, not only surviving but also killing the Wendigo and reclaiming Lucas.
  • This Is Reality: Meadows objects to the idea of the killer being a Wendigo and gets a surprisingly dry, yet hilarious response.
    Paul Meadows: Excuse me, this is a myth.
    Warren Stoakes: Well, for you, yeah.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Lucas wordlessly hunts animals on his lonesome, dissects their carcasses, and tosses them into the attic in his home for his father and brother to feed on before coming back to remove the bones.
  • Villainous Parental Instinct: Frank is able to resist the Wendigo's urge to feast on his son, undergoing Horror Hunger until he can go outside and hunt out there.
  • Viral Transformation: Implied to be part of the way the Wendigo takes hold of people, as it's only seen possessing Frank and Aiden, and later implied to have possessed Paul as well after having attacked all of them itself.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Wendigo is monstrously fast and strong, being more than a match for any human... as long as it's hungry. If it's eaten recently, it becomes weak and sluggish, conveniently allowing the protagonist to fight it one-on-one during the climax.
  • Wendigo: What the creature is, depicted as a massive twisted being with a head like that of a deformed eyeless deer topped with a massive gnarl of antlers (hence the title).
  • Wham Line: After the Wendigo is killed, Aiden starts making the exact same sound Frank did before he transformed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's not revealed what happened to the original Wendigo that attacked Frank, though it doesn't appear to be in the mines anymore.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • As detailed under Asshole Victim, one of the Wendigo's victims is Clint, who is at least in his early teens, judging by his appearance.
    • Tragically enforced by Julia, who kills the 7-year old Aiden as he slowly undergoes the painful process of turning into a Wendigo himself.

"He'll come for me. He needs me."