Antlers, the upcoming film from director Scott Cooper and producer Guillermo del Toro, is all Wendigo all the time. So obviously, with a master of monsters on the panel, Comic-Con@Home was going to dig deep into the inspiration behind the film's beast.
The pair discussed their creature's design — as well as other behind-the-scenes aspects of the horror film — and gave fans a not-so-pretty picture of what Keri Russell — who plays a teacher in the film — must protect her student (Jeremy T. Thomas) from. And even if Jesse Plemons plays a sheriff, horror fans know not to expect much from the law. Things kicked off with a brand new behind-the-scenes featurette about the Wendigo.
You can watch the full panel below:
"The Wendigo is an allegory where there's a spirit that comes to reconcile what the people are doing incorrectly," said the film's First Nations consultant (and Smoke Signals director) Chris Eyre. "All this rage, all this abuse incarnates, is like an invocation for this creature," del Toro added. Born of a colonial cannibalization of resources, leaving Native peoples to starve, the Wendigo is a corrective and punitive force. "Our images of the Wendigo, it didn't become just allegories," said First Nations consultant Grace Dillon. "It actually started becoming very, very real."
"It's truly a powerful connection between what we do to nature, what we do to each other — it is metaphor made flesh," del Toro finished. Cooper, meanwhile, explained that there are three roots that this monster came from: the mistreatment of the environment, the mistreatment of Native Americans, and the mistreatment of those addicted to drugs.
"It was really important to me as someone who's white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Episcopalian," Cooper said, "if I'm going to discuss any Native American folklore, any themes that course through Native American life, I want to have people who know much more about it than I and I want to get it right."
The blood and guts have been flowing in the film's handful of trailers, meaning Cooper (who co-wrote the screenplay with C. Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca) is already giving gorehounds what they want.
"We're not creating a monster, we're creating a god," del Toro said of the Wendigo's design. "So the design needs to have elements that are completely unnatural. That are almost surreal or abstract." They tried realistic paint ("the bone looked like bone and the fur looked like fur") and scrapped it. "I said, 'The bone needs to look like coal,'" del Toro remembered. The Wendigo had three requirements: "ancient, powerful, and one with nature." The inspiration for its final design was the center of the Earth — the core and crust of the planet itself.
As far as other projects, Cooper opened up about one very spooky plan close to his heart.
"There's a film that I've wanted to make for several years, that I've written, about a series of murders that take place at West Point in the year 1830," Cooper said. "They surround this young cadet who is a unlike all the other cadets: He's poetic, he's irrational, he's fanciful, and he's extremely passionate. And the world would come to know this cadet as Edgar Allan Poe."
As for Antlers, the film — which also stars Graham Greene, Cody Davis, Amy Madigan, Rory Cochrane, Scott Haze, and Sawyer Jones — has had its release date delayed due to the coronavirus. It'll now open on Feb. 19, 2021.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.