A WOUNDED FAWN (2022)
Release Date: 12/01/22 [Shudder]
"A serial killer brings an unsuspecting new victim on a weekend getaway to add another body to his ever-growing count. She's buying into his faux charms, and he's eagerly lusting for blood. What could possibly go wrong?"
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
A Wounded Fawn, directed by Travis Stevens, is a dark, twisted film about domestic abuse that pivots to deliver righteous, cinematic justice to those often overlooked in our natural world. Erik Bergrin’s unsettling costumes, matched with the opulent and isolated production design by Sonia Foltarz, make for an experience like few others. Shudder has once again picked up a great low-budget thriller, with a creative concept worth watching on its own.
The concept is simple: A man with a penchant for violence against women invites a woman to his cabin in the woods. We have seen this story a hundred times before, and even more recently with the Danish film, Speak No Evil, which I reviewed earlier this year. What makes A Wounded Fawn unique is its integration of Greek Mythology through The Furries, who try to warn Meredith (Sarah Lind) of the intent of her host. It’s a game of cat and mouse where the roles are in flux, and the tension oozes off the screen.
A large element of the tension comes from Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben’s performances, which capture the ethereal nature of this film perfectly. As otherworldly creatures appear, their reactions anchor the audience. The film embraces the artifice of its plot and production, and their natural performances sell the effect. And the makeup and special effects team are doing fantastic work, with monsters that appear to come from the B-movies of the 50s and 60s. It’s grotesque and horrifying, and an achievement of practical effects.
However, there are some major technical limitations seen within A Wounded Fawn. Firstly, the film is often far too dark on a visual level. Scenes are often underlit, and it makes the first act hard to watch and comprehend. While the absence of light can encourage the audience to imagine the most terrifying monster lurking just beyond the light, here, it keeps the audience from fully engaging in the film. The first act is largely built on tense atmosphere and tone, thanks to the stilted dialogue, set design, and music by Vaaal. The pervasive darkness of the film occasionally adds to this feeling, but often just becomes a visual hurdle for the audience. And while this subsides in the second act, which harnesses darkness in its creature design, it’s still a major issue for the first act.
Secondly, the editing of the film is often repetitive and disorienting. Having insert shots of the different ties of those partaking in a bidding war for the Statue of The Furries accomplishes little for the film's narrative, meaning or tone, but it does disorient the viewer. When establishing shots are cut back to the middle of a scene or montage, it interrupts the flow of a scene. It’s the moments of momentary editing that are off and rarely add to the film’s tense nature, until the second act. Once more, when the film pivots to be a creature horror, the odd visual choices work.
It’s disheartening then, that the second act is entirely centered on the character of Bruce, played by Josh Ruben, and the pain inflicted on him by the Furries. While that pain isn’t a bad inclusion on its own, it’s the lack of Meredith’s perspective and emotional arc that hurts the film's narrative and themes. While Sarah Lind does great work as Meredith in the second act, the camera is constantly focused on Bruce’s journey into hell, as shown by its final moments, and that sours the film's narrative greatly. For a film all about raising awareness and avenging those harmed by domestic abuse, it puts its male character front and center, at the expense of the female lead.