Yeah…we really are the worst…
While not without its imperfections, Men is a psychological mind fuck of a movie that truly puts the male population in the shoes of women when they are surrounded by the insecurities that we as the male end of the species tend to do a terrible job in hiding most days.
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.
While Garland’s expected genius is on display here in Men this story ultimately takes itself just a hair too seriously and lacks the moments of levity that is needed in a story that is just terrifying as all hell.
Tying the ideas and emotions around grief and loss into a horror film is actually pretty genius and there’s no doubting that writer/director Alex Garland is up to the challenge, especially when it comes to creating mood. The film looks fantastic as he uses the architecture and fast wooded areas to his advantage in crafting a mood that will get under your skin and make you feel like you are marooned in another world while staying in a classic English countryside manor.
The narrative is exceptionally well crafted as he ropes us into something truly haunting and upsetting but given how his experience as a director lies mostly in telling science fiction stories, he misses some nuance here. He’s playing across genres a little too much because while it’s all MOSTLY horror (psychological or otherwise) he’s sprinkling in some science-fiction and even some straight drama beats that muddy the waters.
Its horror elements throughout, while effective are also far too severe. This movie just doesn’t let up and really has no breaks in the tension from all the heavy and downright scary moments that happen throughout it and require even just a dash of levity at times which we ultimately don’t get.
And while it gets a little out there in the 3rd act as it leans a little more sci-fi, the underpinnings of the message are there. Emotionally unstable and insecure men can be more terrifying then any maniac with a machete when you are in the middle of nowhere. It even transcends gender to be honest because with the guilt of our lead character playing out in fine fashion, it’s a reminder that we can be harder and more hurtful to ourselves then we possibly could be to those around us.
The incomparable Jessie Buckley is masterful choice her as our heroine/’final girl’/victim here as she completely understands how to run the gamut of emotion in a story that clearly requires it. It takes talent to be an emotional mess in one scene and not give a fuck in the very next scene and make us believe it. Jessie Buckley has that in spades and dives head long into this universe without fear. That being said and as good as she is, she’s not the one who almost steals this movie.
Rory Kinnear (who you may know from the Daniel Craig Bond films) plays the housekeeper Geoffrey and carries the weight of an entire ensemble with him in his performance. It’s all we can say without giving too much away but he successfully manages to evoke a spectrum of emotions with his performance in this film as the primary character opposite Buckley’s Harper.
At the end of the day we have to admit that Men doesn’t quite have the same amount of sizzle that Garland’s previous films have had, but there’s still more than enough meat on the bones of this one to make it a recommended watch if you’re in the mood to be creeped out.
- Release Date: 5/20/2022