In Review: The Power of the Dog

The American western is no stranger to cruel men who wield their masculinity to maintain their position. Positioned as heroic embodiments of the demands of the time rather than men capable of (and often willing to enact) intense spiritual violence, the ranchers and cowboys of the genre have been exalted as pure representations of manhood. With lush iconography and archetypal characterizations at its core, the western allowed us, even invited us, to overlook the truth of our violent past and the brutality expected of legacies of men. Such is the setting for The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion’s momentous return to the cinema that aims to upbend those conventions and does so with the swiftness of a hot blade. The film is not really a western, but interested in the genre all the same—both in the masculine ideals it upholds and their reflections in American culture.

Continue reading “In Review: The Power of the Dog”

In Review: Antlers

Scott Cooper returns to a bleak American landscape with Antlers, a horror film that riffs on the Wendigo legend. The film stars Keri Russell as a teacher returning home to her childhood mountain town in rural Oregon, carrying a history of abuse at the hands of her father. Living in the family home with her sheriff brother (Jesse Plemons), she sees the ghost of her past reflected in her ostracized student Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas). But at home with Lucas is far more than what she suspects: it’s not just the horror of the home, but a monster that has been brewing in the mountains, in this community, and in the national identity. In the hands of Cooper, the result is a scareless thriller that handles the opioid epidemic and child abuse with the humanity and, perhaps more crucially, intention of a muckraking local news segment.

Continue reading “In Review: Antlers”