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Stars: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T Thomas, Amy Madigan, Rory Cochrane, Graham Greene, Scott Haze

Director: Scott Cooper

This is rather a good horror movie, shot in bleached-out colour and set in the wilds of Oregon, close to America's northwest coast.

Two guys exploring deep down in disused mine workings are attacked by something horrific (and antlered), which makes mincemeat of one and leaves lasting scars on the other, who locks himself away to the dismay of his two small sons, one of whom is shut up with him, as they deteriorate into feral creatures.

Remaining son Lucas (chillingly played by Thomas) horrifies his teacher Julia (Russell) with his drawings of anguished monster-like creatures. Like Lucas, Julia and her brother (Plemons), a local sheriff, are damaged goods, once relentlessly abused by their now-dead father.

The beast of the woods who is doing the damage proves to be a giant, stag-like creature that can only be killed by 'extinguishing its beating heart, forcing it to look for another host'. I didn't quite understand this, but it does pave the way for the inevitable, if rather unnecessary twist at the end.

At last the beast disposes of the school bully (as well as a third of the cast) before Russell takes it on in a fiercely exciting penultimate scene. Lots of creeping about the dark with people saying 'Hello?' is a staple of the genre, but it's rather more scarily done here than in most cases.

Lovers of gaffes should stare intently at Lucas's school record, which lists his age as 14, although he says 'I'm 12' and indeed scarcely looks even as old as that.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2019. UK Distributor: Disney (Searchlight/Buena Vista International). Colour by Company 3.
99 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 27 Oct 2021