Note: This is a spoiler-free review
The movie Men, directed and written by Alex Garland, is a much needed refresher of horror from the last two years of underwhelming releases. It will appeal to the Midsommar or Hereditary crowd with its long shots of gross-out body horror and an ever-changing (sometimes confusing) story. It’s beautiful yet grotesque. Someone will spoil it. Not here.
The acting is terrific with both Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear giving fantastic performances . Especially considering the fact that Rory Kinnear plays not one, not two, but thirty (30!) roles in this film! Thirty may not be accurate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Without giving too much away about these ever-so-dense performances from Rory Kinnear, note that he is fantastic in every single one and that’s that. Jessie Buckely shines in showing both character Harper’s emotional damage from her husband’s suicide and her frustration with the strange residents of her getaway town.
Many aspects of this film play off of each other very well: the guttural sound design and the incredibly dark atmosphere both serve to gross out and also drive fear into the viewer. It’s an atmosphere which plays well into the brooding cinematography of Rob Hardy, who has worked on both Ex Machina and Annihilation, Alex Garland’s other projects. Rob Hardy’s camerawork reminds viewers of the gorgeous, dilapidated setting of an English countryside village. It’s a setting which works as Harper is isolated and grief-stricken.
This film is scary and disturbing all without lazy writing or sometimes lazier jump scares. Alex Garland further proves directors don’t need cheap scares to creep the audience out; however, this lack of simplicity could serve as a turn-off to a less-than-average viewer. But note: it’s the only movie which made me gag in a theater.
There are plenty of reasons to see it, but I promised no spoilers. The positives majorly outweigh the negatives; however, it’s not perfect.
Notably, the pacing. The problem is that it lies somewhere between a slow burn and fast paced. Even though this film has a slow start, that does help set up the environment and the characters for eventual changes and shifts.
The question remains is if its message – the whole point of the film – is an empty one or not. Not in a way that the film means nothing or has no value. It’s more of a scenario where the movie says so little about so much. Its theme of repetitive cycles of abuse and misogyny, but one that needs expanding. Audience reviews have also criticized the fact that Alex Garland, a man, is commenting about women’s struggles. In this case, it’s warranted. The movie mostly speaks on abusive men raising their sons like themselves leading to even more abuse.
Despite these issues, it’s a film that is still captivating – a great addition to the psychological horror. It’s directors like Alex Garland and Ari Aster that control the genre and prove that horror is more effective when creative directors take control.
We need more movies like Men. Horror films that require the audiences to stay attentive, interpret the story, and delve into the messages and themes are the ones that tend to provoke interest and create the cult-like followings.
Men is one of these cases.