Antlers

NEW YORK (CNS) -- While far removed in intent from a slasher film, the gothic tale "Antlers" (Searchlight) nonetheless abounds in disturbing sights many will wish to avoid and may consider offensive.

Yet its scenes of bloodletting and shots of mauled corpses, though shocking, are relatively brief and designed to advance a dark fable about the dire consequences of environmental irresponsibility.

Set in an impoverished community in rural Oregon beset by the opioid crisis and other social ills, "Antlers" charts the efforts of middle school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) to discover what's behind the strange behavior of one of her students, Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas). Withdrawn and taciturn, Lucas shows signs of being abused, an experience to which Julia's own history enables her to relate.

Lucas' travails eventually turn out to be connected to a series of bizarre deaths that Julia's brother Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, is investigating. Whether the lad's troubles also are linked to a Native American legend about a monster called the Wendigo -- an idea put forward by Paul's retired Indigenous predecessor, Warren Stokes (Graham Greene) -- is another question.

In adapting the short story "The Quiet Boy" by Nick Antosca, director Scott Cooper -- who collaborated on the screenplay with Antosca and C. Henry Chaisson -- is at his best when relying on suggestion and crafting an eerie atmosphere. His occasional lapses in more lurid material, therefore, while arduous for viewers, do at least unfold within an artistically valid context.

Still, only those as thick-skinned as a moose should try butting heads with this deeply unsettling picture. Unwary moviegoers on the lookout for casual entertainment, by contrast, may be left feeling like a vulnerable deer caught in the headlights.

The film contains intense gory violence, numerous gruesome images, occult themes, partial nudity, sexual mimicry, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, frequent rough language and a few crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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CAPSULE REVIEW

"Antlers" (Searchlight)

Set in an impoverished community in rural Oregon, this deeply unsettling horror film charts the efforts of a middle school teacher (Keri Russell) to discover what's behind the strange behavior of a troubled student (Jeremy T. Thomas) whose mysterious travails eventually turn out to be connected to a series of bizarre deaths that the educator's brother (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, is investigating. Based on a short story by Nick Antosca, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Scott Cooper and C. Henry Chaisson, the gothic tale abounds in disturbing sights many will wish to avoid and may consider offensive. Yet Cooper and his collaborators are at their best when relying on suggestion and crafting an eerie atmosphere. Their occasional lapses in more lurid material -- scenes of bloodletting and shots of mauled corpses -- though shocking, are relatively brief and designed to advance a dark fable about the dire consequences of environmental irresponsibility. Arduous but artistically valid fare. Intense gory violence, numerous gruesome images, occult themes, partial nudity, sexual mimicry, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, frequent rough language, a few crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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CLASSIFICATION

"Antlers" (Searchlight) -- Catholic News Service classification, L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Motion Picture Association rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.