Alex Garland’s third feature film is his most haunting and tension-filled. Here is my review of the unusually gripping, MEN
In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper (Jessie Buckley) retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to have found a place to heal. But someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread becomes a fully-formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears in visionary filmmaker Alex Garland’s (Ex Machina, Annihilation) feverish, shape-shifting new horror film.
Alex Garland and his cinematographer Rob Hardy have mesmerized with every film and the TV show DEVS. EX MACHINA’s icy terrain was expanded in the otherworldly jungle setting of ANNIHILATION but this movie holds a quaint countryside as its idyllic locale. The simple natural feel to the visual dynamic hits huge peaks that literally reach the stars when the tension boils over into the full blown horror of Alex’s mind. The film is basically just two actors playing off each other in the loveliest of settings. And yet there are shocking ocular moments that will stick with you long after watching.
Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear are those two actors playing in the lavish English countryside. Rory’s metamorphic quality in the film is what makes MEN so spooky. A wig, mask, teeth filled smile or even stark nakedness are just Rory’s transformative weapons. As the story unfolds the more unique Rory’s characters seem to become. The power of the film though is the believability behind Jessie’s Harper. Her struggles and torment are captured in her inquisitive glances or her explosive rage. The damning quality of the men that impact her life is both metaphorical and sadly completely realistic. Buckley delivers another incredible performance that is worth your time and money alone.
The music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury elevates the film to an entertaining level. The catchy opening to the film is merely the sweet treat to bring you into the dark depth of Alex Garland’s wild ride. This film does have a closing half hour that will mystify as much as it horrifies. A real crowning achievement in weird and appealing confusion that is perfectly countered by the way in which Buckley’s Harper character is completely exhausted.
There is an intriguing spiritual quality to parts of the film that lends nicely to the religious iconography sparkled throughout. Garland’s ability to mix his wild garden of Eden with the galaxy above showcases his appeal as a story teller. MEN is another fantastic fable that both lives up to the horror genre while redefining it for this generation.
What’s crazy is to realize that up next for Alex is possibly a period piece with the title CIVIL WAR. Geez can we buy tickets already? Well in the mean time don’t miss out on MEN!
Directed by: Alex Garland
Written by: Alex Garland
Selig Rating: 4 Stars
Running Time: 1h 40min
Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi
In Theaters this Friday May 20th
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu and Gayle Rankin
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.