Alex Garland has a way with uncomfortable, unspeakable horror moments. There are moments in his prior film, Annihilation, that show some of the most horrifying cinematic imagery in the last 20 years.
That film’s follow-up, Men—Garland’s third feature-film directorial effort (he also made the stunning Ex Machina)—contains yet more horrifying cinematic imagery, especially in its final act. That final act alone earns Men the stamp of effective horror.
Jessie Buckley, one of the greatest actresses currently working, plays Harper. After a horrifying end to a relationship, she heads to a lonely English house in the middle of nowhere to gather her thoughts and regroup. And … weird … shit … happens.
From the beginning of her stay, when Harper takes a bite out of an apple from one of the property’s trees, Men gives off the sense that maybe everything we are seeing isn’t actually happening, and could be some sort of fever dream. The film is also unabashed in its—quite frankly—hopeless approach to the male species: Nearly every man Harper encounters on her sabbatical is awful, and all are played by the same actor (Rory Kinnear).
The film pulls no punches. Perhaps it’s a little heavy-handed in its condemnation of men—not certain types of men; all men. So if you are a sensitive dude, you might take umbrage with the message here. This movie basically says if you have a dick, you are human poison. I, for one, am perfectly fine with this approach. The main character is going through trauma based on a very childish man’s actions, so the film plays out through her eyes and current state of mind. Understandably, her opinion on men is not very high.
From a naked stalker, to the vacation home’s owner, to a nasty little boy, to the local cop, to an especially awful priest, men behave badly in this movie. The authority figures have generally bad attitudes and can’t be trusted. Again, they are all played by the same actor—and Kinnear is remarkable in these roles. The CGI for his little boy character is off, but it’s probably intentional, and it makes the kid super scary.
The finale is one for the books—an absolute nightmare that drives the film’s one real underlying message home. Men is not a film with easy answers and a clear path to what it is trying to accomplish. (It has a lot in common with Darren Aronofsky’s polarizing Mother!) But thanks to some amazing gore effects and the two main performers, it’s worth the time of patient genre fans.
Men is now playing at theaters across the valley.