A24 is back with another psychological thriller that may or may not leave you scarred for life.
“Men” follows Harper, played by Jessie Buckley, who has decided to rent a cabin in the countryside to begin her well-deserved healing following her husband’s death. However, as Harper begins to explore the area surrounding the cottage, she discovers she may not be alone and that the quiet town may be more sinister than she thought.
At most points, “Men” feels as though it is doomed to fall into this certain genre of male-written horror whose only leading trait is it defines the epitome of terror as the experience of being a woman. It’s impossible to watch this and not acknowledge other films written and directed by Alex Garland, specifically “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” which both have very specific takes on the experience of women being rooted in abuse and constant fear.
But hey, maybe that’s the point. Maybe this movie and those before it are meant to be elaborate commentaries on how we allow women to express their grief and other emotions. In attempting to do this, however, it begins to fall short, as what could be a well-written departure from the “all women are crazy” trope becomes something of a joke within the storyline.
That’s not to say I completely hated the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the front half of the film. It had a clear message (albeit extremely heavy-handed), but it was creepy and new in a way that transcended any expectation I had from the trailer.
Buckley brings so much emotion to the character of Harper, firmly planting the feet of the audience in her shoes as she attempts to deal with her grief and grapple with how she can finally move on from this stage in her life and if she ever will truly be able to.
Rory Kinnear also does a wonderful job in the film, playing every single man (besides Harper’s husband) and conducting an absolute masterclass in how to gaslight someone to the point of insanity. Seriously, every man treats Harper as if she’s having a category five woman moment at almost every point in time, and I genuinely felt like I was the one being gaslit throughout the movie.
Since it is an A24 horror movie, I did go into this expecting there to be gore. I’m usually pretty okay with most stuff, but I absolutely draw the line at straight-up body horror. At multiple points throughout the movie, I found myself gripping the seat and trying my best not to throw up. If you are someone with a weaker stomach, be prepared to watch the last half of the movie through your fingers; maybe even be prepared to cover your ears too.
The finale evokes the same feeling that talking to a real-life man on Tinder often results in, and I think that’s the whole point – eventually posing the question “how could this get any worse?” to the audience and somehow exceeding anything any sane person would be able to think of.
Again, its message is extremely clear. However, it does leave up to speculation if everything you see is real or if Harper has truly gone insane. You know, how women totally do all the time.
It gets a bit fuzzy for me, a woman, there, as if you pick and choose your interpretation, it begins to contradict itself. But I choose to believe the last 20 minutes of the movie don’t exist, so take from that what you will.