Alex Garland has long been making films that challenge the viewer. His new film Men is no different. Centering on Jessie Buckley’s Harper, the A24 chiller follows the young woman as she heads to the countryside for a break after a brutal tragedy. From there the film goes on a surreal and horrifying journey. It all leads to an unforgettable final act. Even for A24 and their experimental genre output, the end of Men is shocking. And whether you love it or hate it, the world will surely be talking about Rory Kinnear’s wild multi-role performance and its ghastly end. And, according to Garland, that gruesome Men finale had an unexpected influence from one of the most beloved manga and anime series of the last decade: Attack on Titan.
How Did Attack on Titan Influence Men?
At a post-screening Q&A that was live-streamed to press screenings of Men, Garland chatted with the cast and moderator. As Rory Kinnear answered a question about where in the process he discovered his grotesque final act fate, the writer/director interjected. “In the script, you read it said mutations,” Garland recalled. “I was thinking The Thing or something like that, and then I thought I was being lazy.” So what inspired his critical reimagining of the grim mutation? Well, it happened while he was sitting on the sofa watching the aforementioned show with his daughter. “I was watching Attack on Titan and I was like, ‘God, this is so good.’ And I thought I really need to get my act together, and it led to what you did, Rory.” So let’s talk about what Rory did…
So What Actually Happens at the End of Men?
While the film is very much open to interpretation, the moment that Garland is referencing comes at the movie’s close. After Harper has battled with Geoffrey (Kinnear) and the multiple men who inhabit the small village, she comes across a naked man. He’s been stalking her throughout the movie and has slowly been transforming. As she sees him now his face has evolved into a plant human hybrid, reminiscent of the British folkloric figure The Green Man. But the “mutations” don’t stop there. The Green Man begins to give birth.
Garland doesn’t hold back as we see a head crown through the Green Man’s vaginal canal. Eventually, the birth kills him. But he gave birth to another one of the men in the town who ends up becoming instantly pregnant and again birthing another man. Each birth kills the birther in a brutal and body horror inspired fashion. This cycle continues until Harper, who’s hiding with an ax in the living room, comes face to face with her dead boyfriend. He was apparently the last man to be birthed. She asks what he wants and he says, “Your love.” As she strokes the ax, the screen fades to black.
What does it all mean? Well, that’s up to you and your reading. But when you start having body horror birthing nightmares you know who to blame: Alex Garland and Attack on Titan.