In the crosshairs of lovers of fantasy thanks to the involvement of Guillermo del Toro, long fantasized by admirers of Scott Cooper, rallied to his cause since Crazy Heart, The Infernos of Wrath or obviously Hostiles, Antlers (original title) did not seduce all its audiences at the end of its American screenings. If the first spectators were for the most part delighted, the second, unconditional of the filmmaker, came out disappointed, they who saw in the scraps of scenario revealed a skilful diversion of horrific codes.
Indeed, the plot takes place in Oregon, in the heart of a disaster-stricken town, devastated by the agony of the industry on which it depended. It’s in a world where a population is languishing plagued by poverty and drug addiction that goes with as Julia (impeccable Keri Russel) and her brother Paul (Jesse Plemons, still impressive) investigate the injuries of a silent child. The themes developed by Nick Antosca in his short story, adapted by Cooper and Henry Chaisson, seemed to fit perfectly with the vision of a filmmaker who auscultates small fractions of the United States through the 7th art.
The disturbing design: a big classic
This is to forget that the director never fails to embrace a genre above all. WhenHostiles evoked with great sensitivity the dark side of the conquest of the West, it was on the occasion of a return to the sources of the western. Proud, he assumed his Fordian hints lost in the middle of a popular culture still feasting on the stylistic remains and excess of pop violence of the spaghetti western.
The quasi-surgical reaffirmation of the genre is exactly the objective ofHungry which, between two post-productionConjuring more and more entangled in interchangeable formulas and detached from contemporary fears, returns to a much more refined, neat and intimate cinematic gesture.
Obviously, the spun metaphor is not subtle and the characters reveal themselves in a very mechanical way. But above all, they allow the feature film to aim for a stripped-down horrific experience, an experience which very literally represents the evil of an era – in this case of a place – and encloses its viewer in layers of unease, which can harboring nightmarish visions revealing the monsters lurking in human bowels. Neither meaningless ghost train nor intrusive thesis film, Antlers puts the social context at the service of horror and not the other way around. Hence its reception, also stuck in an in-between.
In the heart of darkness
Scott is scared
Through this exercise, he manages to touch with his finger a viscerality that will prove to be precisely linked to the themes of Hostiles. The horror that emerges from the film comes above all from the layers of darkness on which this small parcel of society is built. It interferes when the layers of varnish crackle and infect the innocent, here represented by the character of Lucas, played by the real revelation of the cast: the young actor Jeremy Thomas, directed to perfection in a role extremely complex for his age.
This idea of a terror in ambush, which is hiding, Cooper and his co-writers explicitly develop it from the sublime introductory scene. An absolutely chilling note of attention where the shadows of American soil too long soiled by industry and its consequences invade the setting. No more artificial bursts: the filmmaker is betting everything on the atmosphere of his city plagued from the inside, fertile ground for some visions of horror remarkably revealed and rare eruptions of spectacular violence.
At stake: original nightmares
By dint of disturbing little tracking shots and rigid shots that leave their mystery behind, it seeks above all to capture the emergence of a monster, and all its stages. And despite the binary rhythm of the first part, the devotion of its staging is very refreshing. By gradually sliding the social themes of his story into the background, he treats his budding creature with particular care.
The promotional material had the good taste not to reveal anything of the last acts and so much the better. These final minutes, magnified by special effects that are not only solid but also ingeniously lit, accomplish the film’s goal: a return to a form of horrific franchise, thematically and aesthetically.
Little wonder he attracted the benevolence of del Toro, admirer of monsters before the Eternal: Antlers devotes himself body and soul to his monstrous loves, prolongs his interpretation of fantastic creatures, attached for better or for worse to the outcasts of our world, even if it means letting some flaws shine through (a very artificial writing) and irritating part of his public. Like many of the master’s productions, Hungry does not revolutionize anything, but displays the sincerity necessary for recognition by fans of the genre. And that is more than enough for him.