A horror movie about misogyny should have something more to say


Men. It’s a great title. Coupled with a slick poster — a menacing man has the word plastered over his eyes like a warning tag — it presents a candid and urgent context for Alex Garland’s latest horror offering. As the writer/director did with Ex-Machina and AnnihilationGarland will explore genre dynamics through genre tools, delving into real-world horrors manifesting their nightmarish extremes on screen. Men follows this form, but unfortunately it has less to say than its sisters.

Arthouse sweetheart, Jessie Buckley (wild rose, The lost girl, I’m thinking of ending things) stars as Garland’s latest, heartbroken heroine, recently widowed Harper, who travels four hours from her city life to a remote country mansion where she hopes the quiet, rural splendor will help her heal. No chance; it is a place infested with men. And all are there to destroy her, her sense of security, her sanity and her bodily autonomy.

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It starts with annoying micro-aggressions from Geoffrey, the rental owner who asks intrusive questions about her marital status, playfully scolds her, and indulges in the kind of low-boil misogyny of a vaguely creepy uncle. . But her peace is truly shattered when a happy walk in the woods is interrupted by a stalker, bloodied, naked, and staring at her. A male cop isn’t much help, suggesting she’s in no real danger. A bearded bartender is bored with his story, while two tough locals frown. Even the vicar offers no comfort, only grief – and non-consensual touching. Strangely, all these men share the same face. English actor Rory Kinnear plays all the roles (with relish!), including that of a schoolboy spitting curses, thanks to a CGI composition (which looks shockingly the wrong way).


Credit: A24

The first act is grounded in such banal misogyny that Geoffrey’s callous remarks play like jokes. They are awkwardly insulting, but not threatening. So, maybe we are laughing because we have all witnessed such blunders? However, as the assaults of other men escalate, the tension increases. The big house does not look like a getaway but a labyrinth from which Harper cannot escape these menacing men. The dark pink clothing she favors sets her apart as “feminine” and therefore “other”, making her a clear target against the violently green landscape. His only lifeline – his best video call friend (a strong Gayle Rankin) – is cut short by a strange glitch that stops in the face of a screaming woman.

Garland uses the popular horror framework to anchor her narrative. In this subgenre, a hero of the city – a place of modernity, order and reason – is projected into an ancient and untamed environment, where the inhabitants live in superstition and the supernatural. The twist to this norm is that Harper’s logic tells her that men shouldn’t harass her for no reason, shouldn’t dismiss her feelings about her own experiences, and shouldn’t intrude on her body as if it’s wrong. was theirs on the right. Except you don’t have to go to a remote rural village to meet such men. They are, as Harper sees in every Rory Kinnear role, everywhere.

A naked man sits in a shaded cave


Credit: A24

In Ex-Machina, Garland hooked audiences with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), an affable hero with a quick wit, a questioning eye and a kind heart. He sought to save the “princess” of this sci-fi fairy tale, the android Ava (Alicia Vikander), from the tyrannical “king”, the tech billionaire (Oscar Isaac) who invented her. However, as this 2014 film continues, there are more and more clues that Caleb is not the hero but a white knight more interested in proving his own worth than doing good. to Ava. Garland used the default setting for a movie protagonist – a straight, white male with reasonable good looks – to trick us into thinking this was the character we’re supposed to be looking for, only to reveal that Caleb isn’t as noble as we would suppose.

In Men, it’s perhaps audacious to put audiences in the hiking boots of a woman plagued by horrible men. To her credit, Garland dresses the film in lush visuals of natural beauty and the horror of the human body. It’s not just the men’s mocking looks and various false teeth that are unnerving, but also their evolution into a shape-shifting beast that looks like the nightmarish child of John Carpenter and Ridley Scott. But despite all this grim spectacle, the message of Men is basically disappointing. Rather than engage deeply with her female character’s experience, Garland spawns schlocky, splashy horror sequences to spoon-feed — presumably to a cis-male audience — a vague concept of misogyny and trauma. and the terror it brings daily. And hey, it’s 2022, when people who can get pregnant are at risk of losing autonomy over their own bodies. still. So it’s not that such a message isn’t relevant. It’s just frustrating that as sincere as Garland is, he has nothing to say. Yes, being a woman in a man’s world is scary. What else?

A woman picks an apple from a tree


Credit: A24

Asking male audience members to identify with a woman is nothing new. Garland did it himself in Annihilation. But here it looks flat, not because of how Harper is presented, but because of how her world is. Buckley is fascinating as a woman fighting not only this swarm of men, but also her thundering feelings of regret, grief, rage and fear. But the path she takes is well worn, even though Garland has built some gruesome landmarks along the way.

While I was in the thick of it, my heart was pounding. My eyes scanned the windows behind our stubborn heroine, staring back at her when no one else would. I screamed in terror at a cleverly executed jump scare that plays off a fairly common nightmare among women I know. I was hooked. I was on the way… but I was left unsatisfied. While this final act is full of violence, gore, and bizarre body horror, it lacks the audacity to make a statement. So in the end, his title sounds less like a threat and more like a tired whine: Men.

Men opens in theaters May 20.

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