This might seem like a stretch, but you’ve never seen a film quite like 2022’s Men. Really. It’s in a pretty singular place in the world of psychedelic horror. Frankly, there’s nothing that really compares to this shocking bit of A24 business. Unless you count David Cronenberg’s 1979 classic the Brood as a contemporary — but that was 43 years ago.
Men, directed by friend of horror, Alex Garland (28 Days Later and Annihilation) is exactly the film that 2022 needed, nay required. By managing to expertly weave through a minefield of trauma, sexual repression, male insecurity, and post-#metoo movement dynamics, Garland turns in one of the best horror films of the year.
Fascinatingly, the film largely pivots around two people, the SUPERB Jessie Buckley as Harper, and incredibly Rory Kinnear as six+ different characters — yes, you read that right. There’s no telling the complexity of this acting feat, but Rory Kinnear almost doubles Tilda Swinton’s meager three roles in Suspira.
Harper is suffering from a trauma that came from the death of her partner which is made all the more complicated by the fact that he may/may not have killed himself. But that’s just where her horror begins. She escapes to a rural cottage to sort out her life and take a break from cramped confines of her trauma only to be tossed in to layer upon layer of Dante’s Inferno-esque male insecurities.
They’re all here. Lust. Avarice. Hate. Confusion. Incompetence. Religious hypocrisy. Harper’s presence in the village puts each and every naked layer of insecurity on the table for all to see. Worse yet? The horror isn’t derived from ghost, zombies, or chainsaw wielding cannibals, but “well meaning” men just trying to cope with the female form.
While these insecurities might appear to be a little too on the nose, they’re not. Garland is able to seamlessly weave back and forth between Harper’s trauma and the horror of ugly male hubris. It’s a perfect balancing act that forces the audience to contend with the centuries of female compliance and the very intended oppression that accompanies it. Garland even manages to beat the audience over the head with a patriarchal nod to the garden of eden and the forbidden fruit.
The walls eventually do close in on Harper, but not in the way you’d think. In fact, no one has never really ever thought these thoughts and put them down on celluloid. Again, except for 1970s David Cronenberg. The third act is a fully psychedelic bouillabaisse of gnarly body horror and terrifying monologues.
If man-splaining was a horror film then Men would be it. The beauty and cinematic care that Garland brings to such an ugly topic is an exemplary use of film as a social construct. There may be a film or two out there that gets at the male/female power imbalance in more diplomatic and universal way, but we guarantee you there’s nothing out there like Men — again, except for the Brood.
Men is Rated R and available for streaming everywhere.