‘Antlers’ Ending, Explained – What Did A Wendigo Symbolize?


There was a time when humans were few, and their impact on nature seemed moderate. But, soon, we grew and exploited mother nature, unchecked. We still think that our actions don’t have any repercussions and that climate change is nothing but a myth. Maybe it is one of our greatest misconceptions. That is why it’s the responsibility of art and the artists to reflect on human behavior and correct our actions before it’s too late. Scott Cooper’s film, “Antlers,” produced by Guillermo del Toro, thematically explores the human abuse of two gifts we have: nature and our children. It follows their retaliation and brings supernatural elements into the film to warn us what horror awaits on the other side of the tunnel.

Antlers refer to the branched horns of an adult deer. It is a supernatural tale about a mythical creature that emerges on Earth to teach humans a necessary lesson. The film is based on a short story, “The Quiet Boy,” written by Nick Antosca. Through its two main characters, a teacher and a student, the narrative depicts the horrors of human abuse on children and on nature. Let’s explore the story in-depth.

‘Antlers’ Plot Summary

An opening super warns the viewers that mother nature has been harmed and that the violation has awakened the malevolent spirit. And like all dark spirits, it attacks the one who is lost, frail, or depraved. Suddenly, a prologue introduces two wicked men, Frank Weaver and his partner, Kenny Glass, who run an underground meth lab inside a closed Greymouth Mine in remote Cispus Falls, Oregon. When Frank leaves his young kid, Aiden, near the truck and walks inside the mine to meet his partner, both of them are startled by unusual noises coming from the abandoned mine. The two follow the noises, and are attacked by a mythical creature lurking in the dark. Aiden enters the mine, but before his fate can be revealed, the screen fades to black.

Three weeks later, Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) returns to her hometown after her father’s death and starts living with her brother, Paul, the town’s sheriff. Julia takes a teacher’s job and encounters a troubled kid, Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas). As Julia tries to help Lucas, her own childhood memories traumatize her emotional sanity.

In the meantime, Lucas strolls in the wild and kills innocent animals. At home, a loud voice from behind a locked door terrorizes Lucas and hints at the ongoing parental abuse that he is going through. After Lucas gets into a fight with his bully, Clint, Julia plunges into his student’s life and finds out about Lucas’ deceased mother, Sandra. Lucas and his younger brother, Aiden, live with their father, Frank, who sells meth to support them.

As the secret life of Lucas slowly unravels, savagely eaten dead bodies of human beings start emerging in the room. While sheriff Paul suspects a murderer on the run, the natives believe it to be the work of a mythical creature called the Wendigo.

What Happened in Julia Meadows’ Childhood?

Julia Meadows returned to Cispus Falls after 20 years and moved into her family house, where she lived with her brother, Paul. During the conversation, it was established that Julia came back only after their father’s death.

Julia and Paul lost their mother in their childhood. After her death, Julia’s alcoholic father started exploiting her. In one scene, it is explained that Julia used to hide under the kitchen floor to protect her from her father’s illicit acts. As soon as she grew up, she ran away to California to live a life away from her father’s shadow. But the trauma kept haunting her and left a mental scar on her. She became an alcoholic. When she returned to Cispus Falls, she tried her best to resist alcohol and stay sober.

Julia channeled her energy into saving Lucas, whom she believed was subjected to parental abuse just like her. She resonated with Lucas because, like her, even Lucas had lost his mother at a tender age and was living with his father and younger brother.

What Was Lucas Hiding?

In the opening sequence of “Antlers,” Frank Weaver and his youngest son, Aiden, were possessed by a malevolent Algonquian spirit called Wendigo. The evil spirit incited insatiable hunger in Frank, due to which he feasted upon his own partner, Kenny Glass.

As soon as the evil spirit corrupted Frank and Aiden, they returned home. Perhaps he foresaw the impending horrors and thus ordered his sons to imprison him. Aiden soon began to show signs of horror, so Frank took him inside his locked room, where they remained hidden from human eyes.

After losing her mother, Lucas didn’t want to lose her father either. He felt the weight of losing his parents and thus believed that his new father, possessed by an evil spirit, would love him if he fed him. Hence, Lucas started hunting small animals in the woods and picking up roadkill to feed the monsters he hid in his house.

Who Was The Evil Creature in Antlers? What Did It Symbolize?

Nature has its own secrets. But as we dig deeper and deeper into the Earth to exploit its natural resources, we wake up the spirits that have been sleeping for centuries. In her first class, Julia spoke about the importance of storytelling. According to her, it is a medium through which we pass on our customs and beliefs from one generation to the next. But if we don’t learn from their indigenous tales, we are inviting our own doom, which is what happened in the film.

According to Algonquian legend, the Wendigo, depicted in “Antlers”, symbolizes human greed. It became a part of folklore as a metaphor to warn generations of their insatiable desire and hunger. In the film, a news article announces the rollback of environmental regulations and the revival of the coal industry. As per the new laws, the Greymouth Mine was reopened to end the struggle for energy.

Algonquian legend, the Wendigo, depicted in antlers, symbolizes human greed.
Credits: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Warren Stokes, the retired sheriff and a local native, told Paul and Julia about the Wendigo. It was the diabolical wickedness that devoured mankind. According to the popular legend, a hunter who resorted to cannibalism to survive during a cold winter transformed into an evil spirit. The indigenous people believed that the spirit was cursed with eternal starvation and that feasting only made them hungrier. It was like a greedy human who chopped off a tree, one after another, until he had destroyed the whole forest just to feed his financial hunger.

Warren told Paul and Julia that ancestral spirits never die and that the opening of the mine had probably made them angrier. The spirit that possessed Frank wanted to return to the mines, but not alone. He took Lucas and Aiden with him, which laid down the path towards the climax.

‘Antlers’ Ending, Explained – Did Paul Get Infected?

The Wendigo’s spirit had not only possessed Frank’s body, but also infected his sons, Aiden and Lucas. Maybe it was the reason why a possessed Frank never attacked his sons. On the contrary, the spirit attacked Lucas’s bully, Clint Owens, and killed him in the woods. For most part, the spirit remained under control because Lucas fed it with animals. But as soon as it devoured Lucas’ principal, Ellen Booth, the spirit’s power transformed into its most threatening form.

The Wendigo abducted Lucas and Aiden and took them to the Greymouth Mine. A courageous Julia and an injured Paul followed them. Julia decided to face the malevolent spirit and save Lucas and Aiden at all costs.

Warren Stokes had already informed Julia that feasting makes the creature hungrier and weaker. And it could only be killed in its weakened state by attacking its illuminating heart. Julia courageously confronted the creature and attacked it while it was feasting upon Kenny Glass’ body.

At the end of “Antlers,” Julia ripped out its heart to kill it. But another tragedy awaited. She found out that Aiden was possessed too, and she stabbed Aiden’s heart too, to end the horrors. For Lucas, he lost both his father and brother, and it was just the beginning of lifelong trauma.

After the incident, Julia decided to adopt Lucas. But in the ending sequence, Paul showed his concern and pointed out that Wendigo’s spirit had already possessed Lucas. He could turn into a monster anytime soon. Yet Julia decided to ignore the truth and wiped the black bile from Lucas’ face. Julia said she couldn’t kill something she loved. Ironically, at that very moment, Paul spat out black bile and got sick just like Frank. The creature attacked Paul in the shed while he was trying to protect Julia and Lucas. Hence, someday Julia will have to make a hard decision. She will be forced to kill both Lucas and Paul to save humanity from the Wendigo’s spirit.

“Antlers” is a 2021 drama horror film directed by Scott Cooper. It is based on a short story written by Nick Antosca.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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