In the new Alex Garland horror film, it’s raining Men

Alex Garland’s latest attack on the patriarchy stars Jessie Buckley and myriad iterations of Rory Kinnear.

Alex Garland does not like men. In Ex Machina, tech bros wanted to have sexy robot mates. In Annihilation, well actually — I’m not sure what happened in Annihilation, but it was probably the men’s fault. Enter the aptly named Men, Garland’s latest poke at the patriarchy, a folk horror ditty that is already dividing critics and will most likely do the same with viewers. This critic left feeling confused, but the more I think about the grotesque ending, the very on-the-nose metaphors and the excellent cast, the more I think I’m in. I like Men

Men begins like many horror movies before it: with a drive through an idyllic countryside. Nothing is scarier than something disturbing happening somewhere beautiful. Harper (lovely Jessie Buckley) has rented an elegant mansion in a rural English village to recuperate after a traumatic personal tragedy. Subtlety is not key here, and one can guess the events behind the tragedy quite early on, even though Garland delays the reveal by pacing out flashbacks throughout. My first giggle escaped when Harper arrives at the mansion, slowly walks towards a tree while a man stares at her from inside, reaches for an apple and delectably takes a bite out of it. 

Jessie Buckley men alex garland
Jessie Buckely in Men

After this display of Original Sin, a ruddy and obnoxious man (the first of many played by Rory Kinnear) introduces himself as Jeff the caretaker, shows her around the grounds and spits out awkward nonsense about the whereabouts of her husband. Harper’s peaceful retreat is soon marred by the appearance of more and more disturbing versions of men played by Kinnear: a naked man covered in vegetation, a very creepy vicar, an indifferent police officer and a couple of violent hooligans. The cherry on the sundae truly is a CGI child version of Kinnear, who prances around with a plastic mask of a smiling lady.

While Garland might as well have had the words “toxic masculinity” flashing on the screen through most of the movie, he still nails the suspense. Tense, moody music highlights every moment, while every bizarre new iteration of Kinnear leaves you wondering where this is bloody going. Fresh off charming us in The Lost Daughter, Buckley pulls off emoting heartbreaking grief while being haunted by visions of her husband’s death and surrounded by an increasingly farcical setting. I’d love to read that Airbnb review: “Beautiful house, peaceful scenery, but way too many men with leaves growing out of their bodies.” Meanwhile, Kinnear, who many will recognize from his role as Tanner in the most recent Bond films or assorted British TV spots, is having the most fun portraying misogyny in all its glorious forms. 

Men spirals out of control during the final scene, a gruesome display of body horror that goes on for so long. If you never wanted to witness the natural wonder of birth, look away! The symbolism is once again glaringly obvious, but at this point, I found myself amused and on-board for any more horrifying allegories Garland was ready to throw my way. Men is not the most intellectual representative of this genre of metaphor horror à la Get Out, and its unexplained oddity will be what either repulses or delights people. I stand with the delighted, clapping in unison at the bravery of a film that dares to revolve around the simple fact that Men… are gross. ■

Men, directed by Alex Garland

Men opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, May 20.

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