A young widow is harassed by a monstrous parade of men in Alex Garland’s spooky horror film Men

In England, no one can hear you scream.

That seems to be the premise of Alex Garland’s Men, whose grief-stricken protagonist (Jessie Buckley) lets out wild, shaky bellows in all sorts of places: the bathtub, a church, the claustrophobic hallways of a country. Each time, his roars are inaudible to those around him, even if they risk breaking a glass of wine wandering in the cinema.

Buckley is Harper Marlowe, a recent widow whose husband James (Paapa Essiedu), in a fit of rage, stumbled – or jumped – off the balcony of a skyscraper, a tragedy rendered in syrupy slow motion in the foreground of Men . Harper can only watch in abject horror as James falls before her, lit by an impressionistic sunset glow – a sight that comes back to haunt us again and again.

In the aftermath, Harper retreats to an off-the-grid estate for the weekend, ostensibly hoping to wash away her grief with an ointment as old as time: fresh country air and nature, hours away from everything. sign of life – or so she thinks.

“The landscape of [the film] seduces you, so you never really feel like you’re on solid ground,” Buckley (pictured) told Vanity Fair.(Supplied: Roadshow)

As soon as we arrive, disturbing images shoot from the walls of the mansion, painted blood red (a too obvious sign, perhaps, of what is to come). It begins with the appearance of its mealy-mouthed owner, Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), whose goofy ways and slightly off-kilter jokes might hide menacing intentions.

Then, on a video call with her friend Riley (Glow’s Gayle Rankin, who’s underused here), Harper’s phone screen freezes in the blink of an eye and you’ll miss the jump scare, se warping into a Lovecraftian quagmire of flesh. and blood – a pair of ghoulish, misshapen lips locked in an eternal scream.

This issue teases a connection to previous Garland films – thoughtful sci-fi parables that deal with the dystopian implications of technological progress. In British Oscar-nominated director Ex Machina (2014), a wealthy, macho guy from Silicon Valley develops the perfect fembot prototype.

Its follow-up, an atmospheric adaptation of the acclaimed sci-fi saga Annihilation (2018), stars Natalie Portman as a biologist leading an all-female commando troop in a mysterious area called ‘the Shimmer’. , where their military weapons are defenseless against an inexplicable force that invades their body.

A bald white man stands shirtless and bloody with a green leaf stuck to his forehead from inside a dark pit.
“I think otherwise [audience] the answers very much depend on…their openness to a film like this,” Kinnear (pictured) told the Independent.(Supplied: Roadshow)

Garland’s last one, however, is a bit of a left turn. Like Ex Machina and Annihilation, it’s a chamber piece – isolating its characters in a bucolic sanctuary that turns into a nightmare, and letting them unravel the gnarled despairs that torment them. But Men cut back on sci-fi tropes in favor of something more sinister.

It fits right in with the recent wave of so-called elevated horror movies, which use the slice-and-dice gore of their predecessors as metaphors for greater existential anxiety.

Hereditary and Ari Aster’s Midsommar are mainstays of the genre, offering great ruminations on family dysfunction and relationship issues. Closer to home, Australian films Relic and cult favorite The Babadook have also told twisty stories of intergenerational trauma and motherhood in a creepy and frightening way.

And with such a title, Men could only be a horror movie.

Unfortunately, his title is also where it seems to reside.

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