In Alex Garland’s New Horror Film, It’s Raining Men
Alex Garland doesn’t like men. In Ex-Machina, tech bros wanted to have sexy robot companions. In Annihilationwell actually – i’m not sure what happened in Annihilation, but it was probably the men’s fault. Enter the well named Men, Garland’s latest jab at the patriarchy, a folk horror song that’s already dividing critics and likely will do the same with viewers. This reviewer left feeling confused, but the more I think about the preposterous ending, the very on-the-nose metaphors, and the excellent cast, the more I think I’m into it. I love Men.
Men begins like many horror films before it: with a drive through idyllic countryside. Nothing is scarier than something disturbing happening in a beautiful place. Harper (the charming Jessie Buckley) has rented an elegant mansion in a rural English village to recuperate after a traumatic personal tragedy. Subtlety isn’t key here, and the events behind the tragedy can be guessed pretty early on, though Garland delays the reveal by punctuating flashbacks throughout. My first laugh escaped when Harper arrives at the mansion, slowly walks up a tree while a man watches her from inside, grabs an apple, and takes a delicious bite.
After this display of Original Sin, a red-faced, obnoxious man (the first in a long line played by Rory Kinnear) introduces himself as Jeff the caretaker, shows him around the grounds, and spews awkward nonsense about where his husband. Harper’s peaceful retirement is soon marred by the appearance of increasingly disturbing versions of the men played by Kinnear: a naked man covered in vegetation, a very creepy vicar, an indifferent policeman and a couple of violent hooligans. The icing on the cake is really a child CGI version of Kinnear, strutting around with a plastic mask of a smiling woman.
While Garland might as well have had the words “toxic masculinity” flashing across the screen for most of the film, it still nails the suspense. Tense, brooding music enhances every moment, while each bizarre new iteration of Kinnear leaves you wondering where the bloody hell is going. Freshly charm us in the lost girl, Buckley manages to express heartbreaking grief while being haunted by visions of her husband’s death and surrounded by increasingly wacky surroundings. I would love to read this Airbnb review: “Nice house, peaceful scenery, but way too many men with leaves sticking out of their bodies.” Meanwhile, Kinnear, who many will recognize for his role as Tanner in the most recent Bond films or various UK TV spots, has the most fun portraying misogyny in all its glorious guises.
Men spirals out of control during the final scene, a gruesome display of body horror that has gone on for so long. If you’ve never wanted to witness the natural wonder of birth, look away! The symbolism is once again glaring, but by this point I found myself amused and on board for all the most gruesome allegories Garland was willing to throw at me. Men is not the most intellectual representative of this kind of horrifying metaphor at the get out, and his unexplained quirkiness will be what repel or delight people. I stand with the rapt, clapping in unison at the bravery of a movie that dares to revolve around the simple fact that men…are rude. ■
Men opens in Montreal theaters Friday, May 20.
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