Nope ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Very good, a little uneven.

Generally speaking, I found the grounded first half to be stronger – it was both scarier and funnier, and the character drama seemed pretty compelling. A lot of genuine suspense and terror! A lot of fun bits in the parts where the characters just hang out! The initial section by itself was probably the best movie experience I've had in 2022 so far.

Unfortunately, it feels like a lot of what I liked was abandoned as a result of the tonal shift towards a more straightforward action climax. None of the character arcs seemed to land in a completely satisfying way, which hurt the stakes a lot. Angels and Antlers Holst especially just kind of were there in the end, with the latter feeling like a pure plot device in spite of the funny performance, but I don't think the relationship between siblings and their dead father was paid off that well either. There was a sense of underlying hollowness with the climactic setpieces, which were really good, but in some way lacking in character substance.

There's undeniably a lot of density and ambition here. The unsubtly metafictional monster is a film camera, a bad miracle, a cowboy hat, an animal, the audience, and maybe just the entire film industry all at once. Even if you can form perfectly coherent readings about exploitation of animals & marginalized people in the film industry, analog and digital formats, and how film captures disasters and trauma, like with a lot of other "elevated genre films", I wonder if packing in this much complexity was the wrong move. It's a pretty brisk movie that doesn't leave the viewers a lot of time to think about what's happening – sometimes you want a complex allegory to think about, but sometimes you just want a clear thematic context to the setpiece happening in front of you. As one side effect of the insane thematic depth, on some occasions it seemed like the characters figured stuff out (like the monster's whole deal) in a way that hinged more on subtext than the actual events of the story.

Still, there's so much powerful imagery & sound design that while the review I ended up writing feels slightly critical, it was an enjoyable experience regardless. Maybe I'll find more to appreciate on a rewatch, but this time around, during the climax I found myself thinking "pretty cool, but do I really care about these characters?"

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