ANTLERS was one of the most anticipated horror films of 2020. With a mysterious story, a stellar cast, and filmmaking legend Guillermo del Toro producing, I was counting down the days until the film’s April release.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, that release date was pushed to early 2021. But fans of supernatural horror were given a treat to tide them over at Comic-Con@Home this Saturday when Collider’s Steve Weintraub interviewed del Toro and ANTLERS director Scott Cooper.
The interview began with a few ice breakers that were as delightful as they were revealing. No one will be surprised that del Toro’s favorite ride at Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion, for example. But learning that Cooper’s most-watched film is Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation gave me new insight into Cooper as both a filmmaker and a movie buff.
But the main focus of the panel was the discussion of the creation of ANTLERS. Here are just a few standout topics the two discussed.
Themes and “Message Movies”
ANTLERS is an exploration of what it means to be an American today, says Cooper. The wendigo at the center of the film is a reflection, in many ways, of the abuse we see around us. Cooper cited the abuse of our planet and the opioid epidemic as examples of that misuse.
Del Toro agreed, saying that the wendigo represents “greed and colonialism.” He sees a metaphor for the insatiability of Americans within the wendigo’s constant hunger.
But while those metaphors are present in the film, Cooper stressed that he kept away from making the film a message-driven movie. From the very beginning, his goal for the picture was for it to be “disquieting, for it to be tense, and human at its center, but also terrifying.”
“We have to remember, we’re not creating a monster, we’re creating a god,” del Toro told the team responsible for bringing the creature at the center of the film to life. To that end, he felt the design required elements that went beyond nature.
For example, during some initial design meetings, the creators planned to use a natural approach to the creature’s bones, but del Toro encouraged a different approach. He suggested making the bones of the creature look like an ore, like something out of a mine.
Their guiding principles were to make the creature “ancient, powerful, and one with nature.”
The duo also discussed their approach to filmmaking. Cooper used a Sony Venice digital camera to shoot ANTLERS, which is formatted similarly to 65mm.
This scale was important for him because it helped visually convey a central idea of the film: “Little boy, bog problems.” Having this massive frame allowed Cooper and his cinematographer, Florian Hoffmeister, to show their main character as “completely overwhelmed” by his surroundings.
After watching the full panel, I think you’ll agree that February 2021 can’t come soon enough.