we saw Men, the visceral and terrifying nightmare of Alex Garland

After an exceptional year 2021 in July, Cannes is back in May for its 2022 edition and its rich selection of around a hundred more or less expected films. After its zombie opening with Cut!, the festival is therefore in full swing and unveils a little more of its gems (or not) every day. It’s time for us to give you our hot opinion on Menthe horror film by Alex Garland.

What is it about ? While she has just experienced a personal drama with her husband, Harper (the incredible Jessie Buckley) decides to go to the countryside to relax and hope to rebuild herself. But once you arrive there and meet the owner of the house (Rory Kinnear in the role(s) of his life), a strange atmosphere emerges from the place and above all, someone or something seems to be chasing her. .

How was it ? Men is probably one of the craziest movie experiences you’ll experience in 2022. We knew that Alex Garland was not a handle, quite the contrary, given his astonishing first film Ex Machinathe confirmation with its unsettling Annihilation and especially his impressive series devs, ambitious and poetic exploration of human existence.

In just two films and one series, the director and screenwriter has therefore proven that he is one of the masters of contemporary SF thrillers. But with Men, the gentleman will go a little further beyond the limits of his cinematographic experiments by tackling pure horror.

The tipping point

Opening on the haggard gaze of its heroine, Harper, Men immediately lays the foundations of her story: the young woman is lost, upset and will try to find meaning in her life after the trauma experienced before her eyes (and ours) in her London apartment. Because it is this trauma that the orange opening of Men reveals in slow motion, like memories that Harper will keep rehashing throughout the filmalmost frozen moments from which she seems incapable of recovering, in love with a feeling of guilt devouring her from the inside.

Without great surprise with Alex Garland, the feature film therefore starts as a psychological drama, allowing him to continue to explore one of his favorite themes: mourning. Harper therefore flees to the English countryside for a long restful week. And even if her friendly host is very indelicate (making a remark about the rules), she decides to take advantage of the place and the surroundings. Men then sinks into a long ultra-sensory wandering, in the middle of a vast wood and near an agonizing tunnel from which terror will be born.

Men : Photo Rory Kinnear

“Someone there ?”

From there, the feature film switches. The initial psychological drama gradually turns into a thriller, home invasion for fully embrace the horror film, in a tasty mix of folk horror and body horror, in a last bloody and visceral organic act. Difficult to say more about Men without really spoiling the story and in particular all its unexpected twists. It is all the more difficult to put words on such a cinema proposal after one and the same viewing. Because Men is certainly a real experience, a unique proposition in the current system, disconcertingly free and madly rich.

In 1h40, Alex Garland takes rare risks, assuming them to the end (even if it means sometimes lacking a bit of subtlety), determined to offer a singular journey of extreme density. In a few shots, he succeeds in switch from one genre to another, to create an impressive tension without ever falling into the ease of the basic jumpscares of the horror genre. On the contrary, thanks to a hyper neat staging, the horror is deep, sincere and aggressive.

Between a simple mobile phone bugging towards a mouth of hell, a photo revealing the presence of a disturbed stranger or an extremely stressful game of voyeurism with the spectator, the director is teeming with visual ideas (damn these men with identical faces) and explodes the counters of anguish (helped by the destabilizing music of the duo Ben Salisbury-Geoff Barrow) and this, even if the story is not devoid of an amusing absurd and cynical humor.

Men : Photo Rory Kinnear

All The same ?

Moreover, this staging always supports a real reflection on the themes of the film while having a lot of subtexts of interpretations. Alex Garland indeed explores all of his favorite themes: there is nature and faith (in a juxtaposition that will be reminiscent of Mother! of Darren Aronofsky to certain spectators, but for good), loneliness, mourning (as mentioned above), but above all the place of women and toxic masculinity.

Two subjects that were already present in his two previous films (Ex Machina especially with its two men seeking to create the ideal woman in artificial intelligence, and Annihilation with his scientific women released in a mysterious zone where a group of men failed) that the director puts at the center of his story and his reflections on society, religion…

Men : Photo Jessie BuckleyReligion and in particular the Bible, a non-negligible part of the subject

Truly, Alex Garland appropriates the codes of horror to study the relationships between men and women until completely disconcerting: is the surrealist horror visible on the screen finally a horror indeed and very real for the women? A waking nightmare that they are the only ones to feel, live or suffer daily within a patriarchal society like ours? And will men be able to evolve, to be reborn in another form? Or will the mentalities they have forged remain etched forever in their innermost beings despite everything?

Without drawing any conclusions, Men poses a creative and frightening look at the situation and then opens up avenues of reflection on the world of today (and its origins), in the hope of animating the public, of stimulating it. As saying that the film will create fiery debates, shock many of its spectators and risk widely dividing opinion. However, one thing is certain, Men will remain a unique film in the eyes of all and Alex Garland, certainly one of the great filmmakers of the moment.

And when is it coming out? From June 8 in French cinemas and you are clearly not ready.


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