Alex Garland is a visionary director who has brought us many interesting pictures in the last few years. “Annihilation” and “Ex Machina” are his 2 directing features that tinker with the idea of sci-fi/heady horror and have received both critical and commercial praise. With ‘Men’, Garland wanted to try to craft his first pure horror entry while playing along with mostly folk horror.
‘Men’ is the story of Harper (played by Jessie Buckley), whose a recently widowed woman who escapes to the English countryside to try to continue with this new, fractured chapter of life. But after encountering a strange man in the nearby woods who follows her home, her dream home becomes a nightmare that continues to grow darker and weirder as it goes. She is confronted with guilt, oppression, and recurring imagery of her late husband who killed himself shortly after they had a very rough argument.
This movie has a very strange trailer which showcases some of the weirder ideas Garland has in store – showcasing both beautiful camera work and set design, a very ominous opaque threat, and even the introduction that one man plays multiple characters throughout the film. While some are more obvious than others, actor Rory Kinnear is able to manifest and take on the role of multiple characters who showcase a humongous range of talent.
The movie has only been out for a week, but has already been met with two completely opposite reactions – one half absolutely loving the originality and rich metaphoric nature of it, and the other half finding it absolutely dull and too on-the-nose for its own good. In the director’s own words though, this was on purpose. He treated the film as a Rorschach test of sorts, where it has enough to keep the story going and make it unique, but your walkaway feelings about the film entirely depend on what the viewer brings to the table. If you are able to meditate, have honest conversations with yourself (and/or your partner), and look below the surface of the folklore and allegories presented on screen, there is so much to chew on and bring home in a doggybag. My wife and I spent the entire car ride home discussing what we just witnessed and what we feel it was truly about, but more importantly, we discussed how it made us feel. The last half of the night was filled with a grim darkness that made us both feel sorrowful and almost hit a point of shutting ourselves down.
This movie has the power to mess with your brain chemistry and slightly alter the reality you currently occupy – much like a Gaspar Noe or an Alejandro Jodorowsky film. I personally loved it, and quickly called it my favorite film of 2022 so far. It’s full of toxic masculinity, christian vs. pagan lore, strong resemblance of women strength, and concludes with a large series of body horror that was among the most shocking things I’ve probably ever seen in a theater – and I cannot shake it from the wormhole in my brain it has lodged itself into.
It’s an intense film and full of insight, but you will only walk away feeling satisfied if you are able to let it swallow you. It’s an honest interrogation of the character of men and patriarchal systems, but it’s full of fun, tension, and super interesting choices that make it not feel like a full-on assault of male pride, but again, more of an honest look from the outside-in.
For some women, it can be super traumatic (but not necessarily in a negative way), and for some men it can be very chilling and make you re-evaluate yourself and your ego. But, for many, this film was a bit too much to handle. Every single positive review online points out the same thing, that the audience was awful. Ours was full of snickering, annoying jesters and jokes, which brings me to my main point of review.
Most general audiences are NOT ready for a film like this, and likewise, this film might not be ready for a mass general audience. But, I absolutely love Garland’s previous works and I was very excited for this one. And for this critic, this movie was a smash that I cannot wait to revisit. You don’t get much original horror nowadays, especially ones as ballsy or intelligent as this.
And that beautiful, lush greenery that surrounds the house and encompasses over half the film? *Chef’s Kiss* Go see this one in theaters while you can, it is absolutely worth your time.
‘Til Next Time,
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