dir: Travis Stevens
A Wounded Fawn is not a predictable film, and that’s one of the things I liked about it the most. It is horror, definitely, but depending on how you look at it, it is less of the supernatural revenge thriller that it may look like, and a more straight-forward look at an awful man, and one of the women that he tries to prey upon.
Meredith (Sarah Lind) is recently out of an awful marriage, and is looking forward to her date with Bruce (Josh Ruben). They’re going away for the weekend, to a cabin in the woods.
The problem is, in the film’s intro, which follows a snooty auction for a piece of ancient Greek sculpture, we watched Bruce murder the successful bidder for the statue, as a weird red owl looking chap looks on.
So, okay, Meredith may be dating a serial killer.
Well, maybe “dating” is assuming a bit much. It doesn’t seem like he’s planning on a long term relationship with Meredith.
The opening speech from the auctioneer explains that the sculpture is of certain avengers from Greek mythology, the Erinyes, or Furies, as they are otherwise known; avengers of wronged women, scourges of those who murder or harm women. Hopefully they go after the manipulators and the gaslighters too. Regardless, right out of the gate, they’re saying that tied to the sculpture is the idea that some force exists in the universe, hinted at in mythology, of divine retribution that apportions cosmic justice.
If only it were true. I so wish it were true.
The reality is, there’s nothing there. Nothing punishes the worst of the worst unless the cops are lucky, and it’s arguable as to how you can get justice on serial killers. Capital punishment seems almost like a favour, and decades in jail seems like a joke.
All we can do as viewers is hope that the piece of shit fucks up, slips up in some way, and gets his just deserts.
Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, though. Maybe Bruce, too, is powered by the supernatural? I mean, whenever he’s about to kill a woman, a weird humanoid owl turns up, telling him to do it. Then he does it, horribly, jerks off, and then everything’s better in his world as he sets about dealing with the body.
Eww, no thanks, don’t drag us into your sexual dysfunction bullshit.
I have to admit that the stuff that used to fascinate me in my 20s often leaves me cold these days. It’s not because of any extra maturity. Despite my haggard appearance, I am as mature now as I was then, which is a sad admission. The big difference is that I can see the flaws in some of the things I had enthusiasm for, especially when it came to the transgressive, and the shortcomings in the impulses that led to my interest.
I am, in some way, happy to report that this is not a “serial killer flick” in its entirety, or one (solely) about a Final Girl getting revenge on her attacker. But it is, after the first “act”, a strange and unlikely journey through the damaged mind of a man who’s damaged, or at least, monstrous, well before Meredith wacks him silly with the sculpture everyone’s so thrilled with.
The funny thing is, well before Bruce reveals himself to be the creep we know he is (to Meredith), she’s already nervous as fuck about where she’s gone on her “date”. Something is already weirding her out well before Bruce starts communing with his owl god figure at his secluded cabin in the woods. She constantly keeps seeing things just out of sight or offscreen, hearing sounds that aren’t there and generally, rightly, figuring out that the situation is not a safe one.
And that still doesn’t stop Bruce from trying to kill her.
What follows next is a strange and very low budget effects journey where Bruce is forced to reckon with his own shittiness as a human being, despite the fact that he keeps insisting that he feels no remorse for all the women that he’s killed. And yet it does seem, for whatever reason, that the Furies have been unleashed, and the angry spirits of the women he’s killed are coming back for their pound of flesh.
We may be (I was) a bit confused as to what had happened to Meredith, and whether the Meredith Bruce thinks he’s conversing with a Meredith who survived his attack versus a ‘spirit’ Meredith wanting divine vengeance. Much of the imagery, low budget and practical as it is, points to an ambition to capture a surrealist atmosphere for Bruce and maybe Meredith’s experiences. There’s a conspicuous amount of ‘art’ just lying about, but I’m not 100 per cent on what the director was getting at. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t just being a pretentious arsehole for the sake of it.
Look, despite being obviously horror, it’s not particularly scary, even if there are some gross scenes. But it is interesting, perhaps, in a psychological sense, as we watch Bruce go through and put himself through the wringer. He deserves everything he gets, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t particularly enjoy watching anyone suffer for hours at a time, or undergo torment, even when they well deserve it.
If it’s a journey, it’s one that doesn’t really go anywhere, no matter how much Bruce hallucinates, and its purpose really is to show up the lies Bruce has been telling himself since he took up his loathsome occupation. All the excuses, all the disassociation with projecting outwards, effectively outsourcing his misogynistic urges to some mystical figure is bullshit, and he knows it’s bullshit. We’re meant to think that his appeal to the supernatural is undone, I guess, by the supernatural in the form of the statue being linked to the mythical Erinyes. And yet the ending would seem to undercut that profoundly, as we get the idea that all of this stuff floating around in his head is just fevered delusional concussed nonsense, as we finally become privy to a death scene that is insane in how long it goes for.
It is officially the longest death scene in cinematic history, going through as well the entirety of the credits, and even then I don’t think he actually died. Josh Ruben just keeps going and going like a suicidal Energiser bunny, and I think I laughed, but then it just kept going and going.
Josh Ruben is kind of settling into a niche, and I guess he’s well suited to it. He played a “type” of guy in Scare Me a couple of years ago with the magnificent Aya Cash, and he’s not a million miles away from this character either – a peevish MRA type who regrets his awfulness only after it’s too late. I’m sure he’s a nice chap in real life, but, wow, he’s playing some utter rotters on screen.
I don’t imagine a lot of people will get to watch A Wounded Fawn on Shudder or elsewhere, and that’s maybe a shame, because it makes a change from the usual horror movie jump scare kill teenagers bullshit that passes for horror these days (and for the last 40 years).
6 times I wish there really were divine Furies pursuing the worst men of the world for their crimes against women, but we clearly don’t live in such a world out of 10
“I suddenly became aware that I was both mortal and touchable, and that I could be destroyed” - A Wounded Fawn