Having escaped an abusive relationship, Meridith (Sarah Lind) is eager to move on and start fresh. This leads to a blossoming relationship with the charming Bruce (Josh Ruben). Unfortunately for Meredith, we’ve just watched Bruce brutally murder a woman in the film’s opening sequence. And now he wants her to spend a romantic night alone with him in his secluded cabin in the woods. We know where this is going. Or do we?
The story divides itself into two very distinct acts. The first consists mostly of Bruce and Meredith’s night in the cabin where he plays the role of affable host for as long as he needs to. But eventually, as it always does, his urge to kill kicks in. In the film’s most striking bit of imagery, his urge is personified in the form of a gigantic, ominous owl figure standing motionless in a glowing red doorway. It’s an overpowering presence, one that Bruce feels powerless to resist. Performing the will of the owl is reflected in Bruce’s choice of murder weapon, a set of steel claws that look like a cross between brass knuckles and Freddy Krueger’s bladed glove.
The stage is set for a standard game of cat-and-mouse between Bruce and Meredith but then the second act comes along, moves the pieces around and throws the board on the floor.
Bruce is confronted by three Furies, beings from Greek mythology who exist to punish and take revenge on the wicked. One wears a Greek chorus mask, one can take the form of a dog and the other seems to be made entirely out of branches. Now Bruce plays the mouse, tormented by the three women who terrify and torture him, demanding that he admit to his crimes.
These torments showcase some impressive practical effects, including one standout scene where a black arm emerges from a human head. If only full trust had been placed in the practical department as it’s in the film’s occasional use of CGI where the apparitions inflicted on Bruce go from haunting to unintentionally funny, like when he’s chased by a dog with a woman’s head or has to fight a sentient steam pipe (don’t ask). CGI feels especially egregious when you’re so overtly trying to imitate the style of 70s slasher films, shooting on film (with soft grain and artefacts aplenty) and marking every wound with luminous red blood.
But while A Wounded Fawn reaches into the past for both its aesthetic and its vengeful anti-heroines, its exploration of abusive partners is refreshingly modern. The two acts of the film reflect the two sides of Bruce, the charming date and the manipulative killer. This is the film’s main objective: to dissect the abuser, why they act and why they think they act. The owl figure that haunts Bruce is a smart metaphor for the most worn-out self-delusion of the abuser, that they are fundamentally a good person but a bad part of them makes them do bad things. A Wounded Fawn holds up this argument in order to rip it apart and present the abuser with its shredded remains.
While the execution of its ideas has some missteps, A Wounded Fawn delivers on its central thesis and its creative blend of Greek mythology and feminist revenge succeed in making mythology fresh and revenge timeless.
A Wounded Fawn is streaming on Shudder from Dec 1
Featured Image Credit: Tammy Scannavino