Following cerebral sci-fi drama Ex-Machina and reality-warping body horror Annihilation, writer-director Alex Garland’s third feature Men is his boldest and most provocative creation to date.
After her husband’s suicide, Harper (Jessie Buckley, in a sensational performance) decides to take a trip to the English countryside to escape from her grief and guilt over what happened. She rents a lavish country manor surrounded by woodland on the outskirts of a quaint little town. It looks to be the perfect place for her; but when she encounters a strange man while out for a stroll, events take a very strange turn and Harper is plunged into a maddening nightmare.
Visually and sonically, Men is an astounding feat of cinema. The countryside has always been a prime place for spooky things to happen in the horror genre, but here Garland embraces the absolute beauty of the scenery alongside the terrors that lurk in the dark, like an abandoned railway tunnel which swallows all light inside it. Combined with an experimental, a capella score (which is comprised of Buckley singing her character’s name), the filmmaker likewise succeeds in striking a balance between the sublime and the surreal.
But when the horror kicks into full gear, Men is relentless. Though indulging in some conventual jump scare tactics occasionally to signal the fright is on its way, the true terror of this film lies almost entirely in its weirdness. Garland toys with concepts of the uncanny and the monstrous to create some truly disturbing and bonkers imagery (that isn’t without a solid dash of black humour, too). All of which is utilised to tap into ideas surrounding guilt, trauma, sexism, and gender roles – the film’s title being a major clue in that regard.
All of this madness builds towards the final act, which for some the sheer absurdness of it will be too much to stomach or perhaps even to take seriously. Though for those who’ve fallen under the spell of Garland’s hypnotic vison, the finale will be an unforgettable cinematic experience whose meaning will be discussed for years to come.
Men is released nationwide on 1st June 2022.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Men here: