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It's almost like Alex Garland made Men knowing it would be released two weeks after the news about Roe v Wade being overturned. It's a furious and pointed art-house horror about the male obsession with possessing women's minds, bodies, and souls. Its inherent terror and gruesome fervor should provide the perfect visceral release for those who have spent the last two weeks perpetually pissed off.
Garland doesn't really offer a traditional script with Men, but more of a premise that's expanded through its strict adherence to the multiple allegories about gender relations that Garland expresses through a gradually rising cinematic intensity, culminating in a fever pitch of anxiety and terror. It's about a woman named Harper (Jessie Buckley) who rents a quaint and quiet house in a quaint and quiet small English town in order to get away from a traumatic event that involved her husband, or soon-to-be-ex-husband since she was prepared to divorce him before fate tragically interfered.
As she struggles to use the serene surroundings of the town as a mental buffer to keep her grief away, she begins to suspect that the men who live in this town (All played by Rory Kinnear, including an unsettling 12ish-year-old boy with an adult's face) might be stalking her. Kinnear is a solid character actor, but he goes above and beyond here, capturing a gamut of personalities and moods that swing wildly between the amusingly absurd and breathtakingly terrifying. Give this man all the awards and then some.
Garland's worldbuilding relies entirely on allegory and the dream logic of a fever nightmare. The moment one asks why Harper isn't taken aback by the fact that every man in this town has the same face is the moment the hypnotically odd hold Garland commands on the audience's psyche will break.
From that moment on, for an audience looking for practical answers to a mystery that purposefully defies external conflict in favor of internal horror, the rest of Men will surely be a frustrating experience that might seem drenched in pretentious symbolism. For those willing to give themselves up to Men's visceral audaciousness, it will result in perhaps the best art-hour horror of the year.
It's an inspiring magic trick that A24 might as well not even bother putting their logo at the beginning of their trademark art-house horror releases, while also making sure to give their auteurs the power to fully distinguish themselves through their work. A24 frequently captures that sweet spot between the intimately familiar and the fascinatingly odd and unique. In that sense, Men is another triumph for their catalog.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com
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