Director Scott Cooper and producer Guillermo del Toro got together (virtually) at Comic-Con 2020 to discuss their creepy-looking, and delayed, horror flick Antlers. It’s Cooper’s first foray into the genre, although the director is no stranger to dark movies, having helmed the bleak anti-Western Hostiles. During the panel, Cooper and del Toro discussed how they came up with the film’s Wendigo-inspired monster, and more.
The panel kicked-off with a featurette that includes never-before-seen footage (you can watch it in the video above). In the featurette, director Scott Cooper explains that the film tells a story involving the Native American legend of the Wendigo. The filmmaker even brought in Chris Eyre, director of Smoke Signals and an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, to serve as a First Nations consultant on the film. “All this rage [in the world]…is like an invocation” to the creature, producer Guillermo del Toro says in the featurette, and star Keri Russell adds that “the destruction of families” serves as an allegory for the monster.
After that, the panel began in earnest with Cooper and del Toro discussing a wealth of topics, some of which didn’t even include Antlers. For instance: del Toro sings the praises of physical media and reveals that he has 7000 alphabetized Blu-rays. Also, when each filmmaker is asked what their dream project is, del Toro says a Frankenstein movie, while Cooper adds he’s written a murder-mystery set at Westpoint in the 1800s where the main character is Edgar Allan Poe, and I would very much like to see that movie happen immediately, please and thank you.
As for Antlers, Cooper stresses that this isn’t just a horror movie, it’s a horror movie with something to say (thankfully, he never uses the dreaded “elevated horror” monicker). “The film looks at the horrors of what it means to be an individual to be an American today,” Cooper says, “and all the crises that we’re facing…climate crisis, drug-addicted populace, our treatment of Native Americans, abject poverty…all of those things without being a message film, wrapped into a monster film.”
The “movie with a message that isn’t a message film” angle gets brought up one more time, but Cooper adds that he also wants the film to show “what it feels like to be an American today,” and while he doesn’t go into detail about that, I’m guessing he means feeling horrible, hopeless, and miserable all the time. Cooper’s ultimate goal was to make a movie that’s “disquieting, tense, and terrifying, but human at its center.” As for del Toro, he chimes in to say that every character in Antlers is “broken” and acting from a point of “family rage.”
While del Toro’s name is all over the marketing material for the film, and Cooper states that del Toro was “very generous with his time” to help get the movie made, del Toro himself stresses this is very much a “Scott Cooper movie,” revealing that he would watch dailies of the film and keep telling Cooper to put his own personal stamp on the imagery. del Toro also states that Antlers is very similar to Cooper’s bleak, underseen drama Out of the Furnace.
As for the Wendigo, the monster at the heart of Antlers, del Toro wants everyone to remember it’s not just a monster – it’s a god. And the design of the creature reflected that, working to make the Wendigo seem otherworldly, ancient, and powerful, but also one with nature. To get the facts about the Wendigo right, Cooper talks about bringing in Native American consultants. He worked with Chris Eyre on Hostiles, and brought Eyre onto this film as well. He also consulted with Grace L. Dillion, a professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, who is considered an expert on the Wendigo. But the best news of all, in my humble opinion: the creature was created with a blend of practical effects and digital enhancements, rather than a fully CGI creature.
I haven’t watched a ton of Comic-Con 2020 panels, but I can confidently say this was the most interesting and compelling of the few I’ve sat through. Both Cooper and del Toro have a good rapport with one another, and even when they’re not talking about Antlers there’s plenty here to keep the viewer riveted. Cooper even teases that he’s planning “a couple of films” with frequent collaborator Christian Bale, and that he’s also gearing up to make a movie with Elisabeth Moss.
In Antlers, “Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), a school teacher in a small town in Oregon, and her brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, become concerned about one of her students, a young boy named Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) who is keeping a supernatural creature in his house.” The screenplay, written by C. Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, and Scott Cooper, was adapted from Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy.”
Antlers is currently set to open February 19, 2021, but that could always change, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now.
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