Alex Garland brings Men to the cinema world with his twisted and all-too-real horror vision of toxic masculinity. The performances and the visual style are exquisite here. And when this film hits 88mph, it goes into total Cronenberg territory. The 1080p HD video presentation looks great and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio track sounds amazing. The one bonus feature is a long EPK featurette that is surface material. Recommended!
Director Alex Garland transcends into fully loaded David Cronenberg territory with his third feature film Men, which will no doubt leave some visceral memories lingering for days to come. What seems like a standard haunting film in the horror genre, set with lessons of grief and acceptance slowly morphs into British folk horror, and then transitions into a chaotic blood-soaked climax that would make a young Peter Jackson proud. With the current topical discussions of toxic masculinity and the inclusion of women, Garland unravels the elements brought up in these societal climates with this darkly funny horror film from A24.
Garland has certainly made a name for himself for his last two directional efforts, Ex Machina and Annihilation. Those two films are fine examples of genre filmmaking that enhance the science-fiction and horror genres with some poignant messages behind them. Even in Garland's younger years, his screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine changed those respective movie genres for the better. With Men, Garland taps his gore vein and folk horror side while implementing masculine taboo subjectmatter in a very creative way.
The trauma starts right away as Men introduces a woman named Harper (Jessie Buckley), who has gone through some sort of physical abuse as she stands in her posh apartment looking out the window. In an elegant and operatic way, she watches a man fall to his gruesome death outside her window who is later identified as her husband. The film cuts to Harper heading for the countryside for some much-needed grieving and alone time to pick up the pieces of the tragedy and her marriage. She pulls into a lavish British estate that is run by Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear from No Time To Die and Penny Dreadful).
All seems innocent enough, but when Harper goes for walks outside or explores the town, there are strange things afoot that are not just uneasy or awkward but are downright scary and terrifying, such as naked men screaming, and masked kids appearing every which way. As Men plays out, it's clear that there is a subtle line of something cultish and even other-worldly at work here, which is where the folk horror element comes in. Executing this horror film in waves of terror allows Garland and his subjects to slowly melt into this world of madness in a smooth way. What seems a bit off kilter at first, comes into an extreme, bloody and chaotic climax by the end running parallel with themes of masculinity. And that's what Garland perfects so well in this movie, even nodding to an ancient tale of taking a bite of a forbidden fruit - genius.
Throughout Harper's journey in the countryside, as she descends into horror, flashbacks of the issues with her marriage with her husband reveal what was truly going on behind the scenes, which plays out perfectly in the end. It's as if Garland knew what the circle of life really means here in all its gory details. And Garland makes it easy to see just how Men can easily manipulate anyone around them and keep making the same bad decisions over and over, no matter the look or identity of a male through Rory Kinnear's multiple roles.
Buckley and Kinnear are wonderful in Men as they turn in fantastic performances. Kinnear shines playing his multiple personas that are as funny as they are terrifying. Buckley plays Harper with grace as her tendencies are to always go towards her compassionate and understanding side, something that Men are not really privy to, which makes this film all the sweeter. Garland goes full-tilt boogie on gore and graphic visuals here, so if there is someone squeamish watching, prepare yourself for something utterly grotesque and fantastic by the end. Men is a scary, darkly funny movie that will no doubt be the cause of conversation for weeks to come.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Men explains itself to Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code via Lionsgate and A24. The two discs are housed inside a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. The artwork features the same art as the poster, which consists of the main male character with the word Men written across his eyes. There is also a digital code insert.
Men comes with a 1080p HD transfer from a digitally shot source. The color palette has a few different filters on it that keep the tone of the movie in its horror realm.
When Harper is outside exploring, the color palette is cool with greens, grays, and blues with a misty air traveling around. The brown bark on the trees and stone walls of the mansion all look wonderfully cold here. In flashbacks and certainly the infancy twenty minutes of the film, the color spectrum changes to much warmer colors where orange, yellow and red are the key ingredients of a fiery hellscape that Harper has found herself in. These contrasting styles look impressive in this 1080p image. Back levels are mostly deep and inky and the skin tones are natural, if not a little on the warm side here with the style decisions.
The detail is sharp and vivid as well, even in these lower-light, non-vibrant color palettes. Closeups reveal sweat droplets, and sick makeup effects both digitally and practical, along with wrinkles, individual hairs, facial pores, and more. Wider shots also look great as well with the British countryside and nature that surrounds it. There is a little noise and banding during the warmer sequences, but other than that, this is a great-looking video presentation.
This release comes with a wonderful lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix that adds a psychedelic element to its sound design. The film begins with standard horror sound effects and crescendos that are boisterous and loud, but as the film goes on, the audio transfers over to a more hypnotic terror that coincides with the image that is being shown on the screen.
Screams, footsteps, trees blowing in the wind, and even the gory sound effects towards the end all have a great natural quality to them with some good directionality. Ambient noises of people in the background and other natural sounds all come through nicely on the surround speakers. The score of the film conveys that trippy desired tone that sounds operatic. The dialogue is clean and easy to follow along with, free of any audio issues.
Just one sole extra running 24 minutes is included. This is a longer EPK type of extra.
Men is a genre-bending and gender-bending spectacle from movie maestro Alex Garland. His ability to tell a horror tale that parallels with the societal constructs of toxic masculinity and female empowerment is simply outstanding and scary. This is one film that will linger in everyone's mind long after viewing. The 1080p HD picture looks fantastic and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix sounds wonderful. The one extra glosses over production. Recommended!