Antlers – Movie Review – The Austin Chronicle
Barring a disaster in the next few days, the Drink is finally ready to hit theaters. Scott Cooper’s film – which features a screenplay by director Henry Chaisson, and Zero string creator Nick Antosca of his short story “The Quiet Boy” and a producer credit for horror maestro Guillermo del Toro – suffered several delays, blowing through the April 2020 and February 2021 releases in the part of Hollywood’s uncertain response to the pandemic. But not all versions of COVID can be The empty man, and Drink joins the stack of horror titles whose best movie contributions are their trailers.
After two decades in California, Julia (Russell) returned to her hometown in rural Oregon. Alongside her brother Paul (PlÃ©mons) – the reluctant sheriff of the declining community – Julia finally tries to put her abusive childhood behind her, by taking a job teaching at the local college. But when the young and frail pupil Lucas (Thomas) begins to show signs of domestic violence, Julia inadvertently discovers the monstrous secret that the boy has worked hard to hide the city.
With movies like Out of the oven and HostilesCooper has proven to be able to explore variations in the US border with an eye on economic decline. On paper, Drink is a continuation of those themes, a feature of a folk creature located in a dying mining town along the Oregon coast. The setting is everything for Cooper’s film; from the first scenes of the dilapidated mine to the overgrown paths between the school and Lucas’ house, Cooper and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister create the kind of damp, wooded environment immediately recognizable to any inhabitant of the Northwest of the Pacific.
For all the talents on display, it’s Hoffmeister who could best be described as his secret weapon. The German cinematographer was recognized for his work on the first frosty season of Terror, and here, he’s again layering much of the action behind a creeping haze. The result is a play of light and shadow that gives Drink a feeling of organic dread. When combined with the film’s dedication to practical effects – only Annibal surpasses Drink in terms of cadaver design – production items more than hold their end of the market.
But what Drink offers in production, it lacks – and then some – in narration. There will be those who raise the question of the appropriation of indigenous culture; Consider the minor role of First Nations actor Graham Greene, whose brief on-screen appearance is devoted to Explaining Things to the Two Protagonists. But by devoting so much screen time to the cultural power of mythology and the economic decline of their Oregon township, the trio of Drink the writers have indeed highlighted their shortcomings. Not all horrors need to be allegorical in their intent, but when you use culture-specific elements as the main text, you owe your audience an in-kind resolution. After all, a monster devoid of myth is not a monster at all.
If the creative team had stayed on a more modest scale – removing all elements of Native American folklore and simply dropping a half-formed creature into our collective tours – Drink could have transcended its flaws to become a B-movie masterclass in the genre. Instead, we’re treated to a movie with a vague understanding of arthouse horror and no subtext capability. The weather may finally be good for Cooper’s first foray into the horror genre, but the present only contains darkness.