Men (2022) is a new folk horror film that has many viewers confused. Fitting well into our F*ck the Patriarchy series, this film tackles the issue of men. Gabe discusses victim-blaming, domestic abuse, how men be 'men'ing and more. Kat shares helpful makeup tips and how to protect yourself.
SPOILERS start at 32:14 Kat's Section starts (spoilers over) at 49:58
If you or someone you know is in danger of domestic abuse, please visit thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
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A young woman goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the death of her ex-husband.
Director: Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation)
Interpreting and Discussing MEN
by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Harper seeks refuge in a tiny hideaway town to escape a recent tragedy. Her ex-husband has died and it’s complicated. It’s uncertain whether he killed himself but having bore witness to his death, Harper has a lot to work through. This beautiful country house should be the perfect place to find herself again.
Harper arrives and spots a blossoming apple tree. She immediately grabs a fresh apple (hello biblical allegory!) She meets the landlord of the gorgeous house, Geoff. He is a typical nice guy, stumbling over his words and working to overcompensate for his mundanity. He chastises her for eating the apple, “uh uh, we must’nt do that. Forbidden fruit.” Geoff is awkward and uncertain. He brushes off her offer to help him bring her suitcases inside. We see him struggle with the bags but still, he refuses her help.
There are a few moments of unsettling fear. A discomfort that comes from being stalked. Harper has an uncomfortable encounter with a strange person living in a tunnel. He is naked and pursues her through the woods as she frantically finds her way back to the house. The horror was in these next moments, with this man lurking outside. Having a woman so utterly alone and vulnerable in this unknown place while a nude man wanders around outside was upsetting. She doesn’t have the address memorized and hadn’t shared it with anyone.
When she does make her way to the town, she encounters more insidious men (and boy) all played by Rory Kinnear. Each man is more disgusting than the last.
Part of the horror and discomfort comes from the toxicity of these men in the town. Each man seems ill-equipped to interact with a woman. In their isolation, they’ve only had their limited view of women all this time. Geoff is awkward and performative. He performs what he is told is a good guy. The vicor she encounters applies misogynist beliefs onto her, assuming she must feel guilty for not having allowed her abusive husband the opportunity to apologize. The boy expects her to play with him, she must. And when she behaves outside of the perceived way of woman, she is made an enemy. These interactions are disquieting and sometimes sickening (looking at you vicor). It’s in these moments that I, as a femme viewer, was enraged or afraid. I’ve heard these lines and I have lived the experiences. It’s no surprise to me and other women that the men behave this way and ultimately betray her.
One issue I had with the film, was the lack of person Harper was. For a film exploring the female experience and complicated relationship between genders, having an empty protagonist makes connection difficult. I found myself wanting to know more about her relationship with her ex-husband outside of this moment that seeks to define her entirely. I know there is more to Harper and more to her life outside of that tragedy and that man. We spend so much time with the environment and we’re forced to see Harper through the lens of the men around her. It reminds me of William Faulkner’s The Sound & the Fury, the exploration and interpretation of one woman’s life through the lens of every man and never her.
Her Black Husband
Speaking of terrible men and the exploration of them. Let’s discuss that husband and why in the year of 2022, the only known, confirmed death in this horror film is that of a black man? The only for true villain, is this husband. We slowly piece together Harper’s trauma throughout the film. Learning that she is not a widow, persay, because she had intended to divorce her husband. We learn he is emotionally manipulative and in the few moments we get with him can easily label him an easy villain. Which is terribly complicated. Are we meant to hate him? Are we meant to hate any of these men? Or should we instead file this under nature?
A discussion on Slate.com, Men ending: Three critics attempt to explain the 2022 movie's twist., the critics explain, He uses his capacity for violence against a woman who’s made him feel emotionally vulnerable, and then he just does this (nongendered) hateful thing, which is threatening to take his own life as a purely manipulative gesture. And he’s Black. And he’s depicted as possibly an immigrant because of his accent, so he’s socially vulnerable in these other ways. And I’m not saying that’s not interesting. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m just saying that it’s gestured to but not explored.
So you’re left with this person who inflicts this grotesque set of traumas on the woman he supposedly loves, haunting the entire film, even though he’s socially vulnerable, too. It doesn’t feel sympathetic. It just feels unresolved. Boy does it ever.
Not only does he die but his body is shown, brutalized and horrific. Are we meant to feel just in that moment? And later, when this brutality is reexplored it delivers even more questions. The biggest being why.