“All men really are the same” in this Wicker Man-style folk horror film from Alex Garland, said Mark Kermode in The Observer. Garland, the author of The Beach, who also directed the intriguing sci-fi oddity Ex Machina, has concocted “a playfully twisted affair” set deep in the English countryside. The excellent Jessie Buckley plays Harper, the survivor of an abusive relationship who escapes to a “dream country house” to recover. The house is owned by Geoffrey, a “Tim Nice-But-Dim” character, who like all the men in the village – from the smarmy vicar to the unsympathetic police officer – is played by one actor, Rory Kinnear, “deftly” slipping between identities. The plot takes a sinister turn when a menacing figure appears to Harper in a deserted railway tunnel. As the film proceeds, Garland “throws caution to the wind” and unleashes horror upon gruesome horror.
Men wants “to be a social thriller for the ages; a Get Out for women”, said Charlotte O’Sullivan in the London Evening Standard. “It almost succeeds.” But at exactly the point where “it should begin to be unbearably tense, it begins to unravel”. It’s unclear whether all the male characters are figments of Harper’s imagination, or whether they represent a real threat. Either way, the film doesn’t really do justice to the “horrible realities” of violent misogyny.
It never quite makes sense of its “startling central conceit”, agreed Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Kinnear’s multifaceted performance is “unnerving and outrageous”, but there are also moments of “not-entirely-intentional silliness” here: Men almost feels like an episode of The League of Gentlemen without the jokes. The actors, though, are very good, and there’s much to enjoy “as the movie builds to its freaky finale”.