A Wounded Fawn: Film Review | Tribeca 2022
(4/5) Surrealism meets Greek mythology meets Feminist rage in this jaw-dropping horror from Travis Stevens.
FILMHORRORPSYCHOLOGICALWOMAN-CENTEREDFILM FESTIVALTRIBECAMOLLY KUSILKA
I’m a sucker for any modern reimagining of a Greek mythological tale, so once it becomes evident this is the case with A Wounded Fawn, I knew I was in for something exciting. Travis Stevens’ film is surrealist, bold, and jaw-dropping, a horror not meant for the faint of heart. Stevens combines several thrilling concepts, from Greek mythology to feminist vengeance to heavy influence from 70’s horror and Kubrick. It appears that the film was shot on 16mm, crispy and saturated, and it really sets the film apart from the digital muted, sleek films of today. This film has two distinct acts: In Act One, we follow psychotic but slightly charming serial killer and art collector Bruce, played with deranged brilliance by Josh Ruben, as he picks his newest victim, art curator Meredith (Sarah Lind), and takes her to his cabin in the woods for a romantic weekend. Bruce blames his urges to kill on a malevolent force that takes control of him, a force that we see in the literal, chilling form of a monster swarmed in neon-red light. Meredith quickly senses that something isn’t right, but it’s too late. The rest of the film is a surrealist horror mind-trip that imagines a world where female murder victims band together and unleash absolute hell on their murderer.
Act Two of the film takes a completely different turn, and I hope it won’t be spoiling too much for me to say that this portion of the film is essentially a horror retelling of Erinyes, also known as The Furies, female deities in greek mythology who take vengeance on men. The three women he has killed torment him through a blur of nightmare and reality. Act Two is where this film might lose people - it’s a stark and total change in narrative, but the boldness of the risk is commendable, and it worked for me. While Act One was chilling and intense, this act is full of surrealist, shocking visuals and rich with thematic layers to dissect. In a sea of horror that commits to a dark, grey-ish color palette and leans toward realism, it was a huge, dazzling breath of fresh air to see the visuals in this film. His three female victims wreak absolute havoc on his mind, dressed in absurd but terrifying monster disguises. The use of disturbing, grotesque visuals is just excellent, ranging from horrifying to veering into camp - Meredith is disguised in a mask and wig that I found downright haunting. As the women torture and torment Bruce, we realize that the “monster” he’s attributing his murders to is moreso just him deflecting the blame for his actions and absolving himself of any remorse. In his mind, he has justified it by saying it’s a monster in his brain.
The overarching theme that dominates the latter half of this film is fiery feminist vengeance. These ideas are depicted through literal visual interpretations of the concepts, which lead to memorable horror visuals - i.e., we see Bruce literally attempt to pull the thing in his brain he believes is causing him to do these things out of his head, in a graphic, shocking sequence.
I found it powerful to witness these three women, disposed of like trash by their killer in dumpsters in the woods, band together in the afterlife to unleash sinister vengeance on a man that cruelly ended their lives. The tale of The Erinyes feels made to be told through the lens of feminist horror, and I found it such an excitingly bold choice to tell it through such a trippy, surrealist visual style. The cinematography has a clear 70s horror and Kubrickian influence as well, evoking nostalgia and clear reverence for so many horror classics. But it’s the strong feminist angle and the emphasis on Greek mythology that makes this film a standout, the saturated, crisp visuals a bold and commanding vessel for the madness on display. This will be one that stays with me.