Star Rory Kinnear walks us through the haunting, phantasmagoric finale to the new horror film from writer-director Garland.
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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Men.

Men, the new horror film from director Alex Garland, starts off quietly enough — there's a long stretch in the first half where almost no dialogue is spoken. Slowly, though, it builds to a steady level of dread. Various weird images accumulate, from pagan symbols like the Green Man to the many faces of Rory Kinnear, until everything comes to a head in a nonstop, phantasmagoric final sequence that's part body horror, part art experiment, and all WTF.

What does it mean? Of course, that's ultimately up to us, the viewers, to interpret. As Garland himself told EW last month, "the film is about giving 50 percent of something, which could be touchstones, and the viewer is providing another 50 percent."

In a movie so much more focused on surreal imagery and music than plot and dialogue, Men's finale is definitely open to interpretation. But some connections seem clear: In the climactic sequence, protagonist Harper (Jessie Buckley) stabs one of the Kinnear characters (the naked man) through the hand. She is then visited by other incarnations, like the vicar and the boy, each of whom bear the same grotesque injury.

Men Jessie Buckley CR: Kevin Baker/A24
Jessie Buckley wielding a bloody knife in 'Men.'
| Credit: Kevin Baker/A24

By that point, we've seen in flashbacks that when Harper's husband (Paapa Essiedu) died by falling off their apartment building after an abusive argument, his hand ended up impaled on a fence spike. That stigmata-like wound is echoed in the blow Harper deals to the men later.

"You see the wounds that he suffered after his fall, and obviously they are echoed in the wounds that my characters receive," Kinnear tells us. "You sort of get the idea that all these men have been a representation of the trauma that she suffered."

Kinnear continues, "I see some people say that the film is saying that 'all men are dangerous' and 'all men are bad.' Well, it's more about Harper's experience. She is going to this place to try and escape a traumatic event at the hands of an abusive partner. Therefore, how she sees all these men that she meets is through the prism of that experience."

Other freaky moments abound in Men's final half hour. Foremost among them is when a bird flies through the kitchen window and dies on the table. The boy then puts his Marilyn Monroe mask on it, creating a truly disturbing visual as the dead bird goes through its rigor-mortis motions beneath the visage of a woman who famously died too young.

"Alex really loves the nature of collaboration, as many of us do working in films," Kinnear says. "We had two weeks before we started filming that was just me, Jessie, and Alex. That time was spent sitting around chatting about our responses to the script and our experiences of various themes within the text and then working through some of the scenes. As we went through those two weeks, we began to understand each other, the script, and what Alex might be gearing towards. So we went in knowing what beats we wanted to hit, but Alex was very keen for it to be as fresh on the day as possible. The squeaky crow mask was an idea on the day."

Men Rory Kinnear CR: Kevin Baker/A24
Rory Kinnear playing one of his many characters in 'Men.'
| Credit: Kevin Baker/A24

The final element of the sequence — and the one that will likely be burned into your brain afterward — shows Kinnear's characters all giving birth to each other. Men ends with various men replicating the biological process associated with women in nightmarish fashion.

Kinnear's memory of filming that sequence is that it was "unseasonably cold" — not ideal conditions for acting naked. But that wasn't the only wrinkle of filming such a scene in the rural countryside.

"I vocalized nearly all the births myself," he recalls. "That's been overlaid now with a soundtrack of Jessie's own voice, but I had to essentially lull like a cow. It was 3 a.m. in the countryside, and as soon as I started, the sheep from the field next door began to call and respond with me. I had presumably woken them up and they weren't that pleased about it. But also they could sense a fellow beast in distress. We had to wait for them to quiet down."

Men is in theaters now, distributed by A24.

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