In a tradition—both film-going and generally—that more and more rejects intellectualism, there’s one thing refreshing a couple of film the place a key plot level revolves round a personality’s means to precisely appraise a bit of historic Greek sculpture. “A Wounded Fawn” is a movie that celebrates artwork and artwork historical past, one which reaches again throughout the millennia for inspiration and pulls out symbolism that also resonates immediately. You possibly can name it pretentious when you should. However don’t name it stuffy.
The third movie from author/director Travis Stevens (“Jakob’s Spouse,” “Woman on the Third Ground”) is solid in fireplace and blood, taking his eye for placing visuals and elevating it to psychedelic new heights. Stevens’ major aesthetic touchstone for “A Wounded Fawn” is ‘70s grindhouse cinema, with all its grit, grain, and fraught gender politics. That is crossed with the extreme swimming pools of brilliant colour popularized by Dario Argento, and mixed with the grotesque sensibilities of Francisco Goya’s “Black Work.” The mixed impact is one among feverish hallucination.
The driving emotion behind all of this in-your-face fashion is anger—particularly, ladies’s righteous fury in the direction of misogynist forces of violence and oppression. These are embodied within the type of Bruce (Josh Ruben), a seemingly good man about whom museum curator Meredith (Sarah Lind) is feeling actually good after a handful of dates. The viewers is aware of that Bruce is dangerous information when Meredith agrees to accompany him upstate for a romantic weekend within the nation: In a chilly open, we’ve already seen Bruce stalk and slash an artwork seller in pursuit of “The Wrath of the Erinyes,” a really previous piece of sculpture depicting the three Furies of Greek mythology. Now we’re simply ready for Meredith to catch up.
A misogynistic psycho murdering a lady to take possession of a statue representing female rage is symbolically loaded to the purpose of being on the nostril. Fortunately, the revenge is simply as brazen. In its first half, “A Wounded Fawn” unfolds like a wise, however not significantly groundbreaking serial-killer thriller. In its second, it spins out into one thing surreal and surprising as Bruce receives supernatural comeuppance for his many crimes. This, in fact, is satisfying to look at. However what makes it actually attention-grabbing is that it’s by no means clear to what extent these howling harpies are coming from Bruce’s personal thoughts.
At the movie’s midpoint, the tone shifts from lean and nasty to bombastic and grandiose. The mythological entities which have to this point hovered within the background of the story flip into flesh-and-blood characters because the three Furies—Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megaera—present up, intoning in thunderous voices concerning the harm they’re about to inflict on this pathetic waste of oxygen. Add a human-sized owl, its steampunk acolytes, gallons of red-orange blood, and a great deal of occult symbolism, and “A Wounded Fawn’s” metamorphosis from a violent caterpillar into an equally violent, however infinitely weirder butterfly is full.
At occasions, the again half of the movie comes off like an avant-garde theater manufacturing, or perhaps a bunch of Shakespearean actors excessive on psychedelics—suppose folks wrapped in bedsheets soaked in pretend blood operating by way of the woods screaming about wrath. However the moments when “A Wounded Fawn’s” low-budget seams start to indicate don’t break the film. There are a few causes for this: First is Stevens’ intelligent embrace of grindhouse aesthetics. These films have been all held along with duct tape, too, so the tough edges improve the impact.
Second is the lead actors’ dedication to their roles. Lind is a power of nature as Meredith, animated by a divine wind that pushes her ahead with the sureness of a Valkyrie on horseback. And Ruben gamely takes his lumps, significantly in an prolonged credit sequence that completely sums up the movie’s mix of absurdity, audacity, and righteous anger. In his earlier work, Stevens performed round with style conventions. Right here, he shatters them right into a thousand items.