We have dozens of horror crowd theaters every year, yet few of them can shock me at first sights, like this 2022 movie, A Wounded Fawn.
Immediately we get an idea about what we will be watching by explaining the Erinyes myth, namely the sisters Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, ancient avenging furies for the ladies’ sake.
This introduction then leads us to witness the brutal murder of a girl by a serial killer, who feels the urge to kill at the sight of a mysterious fiery red owl.
Sometime later, this mad maniac prepares for a romantic date, obviously another opportunity to lure one of his victims.
The girl in question has no idea what kind of trouble she is getting herself into, instead seeking new experiences after her previous relationship with an abusive partner left her deeply emotionally scarred.
So she agrees to spend the weekend at this man’s house, a small but elegant cottage in the middle of the woods, far from everything and everyone.
I already know what many of you must be thinking: with this premise, this will be just yet another story with the crazy man chasing his victim the rest of the time.
But that is where you are wrong, as I was: since at the crucial moment, the serial killer gets a beating from the girl, ending up on the floor in a pool of blood.
At that point starts, the madman’s delirium, severely wounded in the head, sees the well-known myth sisters mentioned at the beginning in the form of the women he killed.
Is this just a delirium, or is it the real spirit of the Furies, who are hunting him and want to make him pay for the heinous crimes he has committed?
70s horror vs. ancient Greek tragedies
Often when a filmmaker aims to use metaphors to tell a story through, it all ends up as a pointless exercise in style.
Fortunately, Travis Stevens does not fall into this mistake, capturing our attention with a standard horror premise yet veering resolutely into the psychedelic fantasy genre.
Indeed the director writes the script with colleague Nathan Faudree, dividing the story into two distinct acts.
The first part is ordinary horror, useful to introduce the characters and their dynamics, although we already have warnings about the angry ghosts roaming the woods around the house.
However, the man does not notice anything at all, perhaps too busy fantasizing about his next murder; while the woman is increasingly frantic until she comes face to face with the inevitable serial killer.
The second half unleashes the hellish drama the man did not expect, where his macho attitude collapses miserably into a pathetic figure along the lines of The Bacchae myth, where Thebes’ king ends up slaughtered by the women of his own kingdom.
Each interior setting is precise in composition as it is a painting; not coincidentally, the introduction takes place precisely during an auction in an art gallery.
Moreover, the perfect visual side accompanies practical special effects without any CGI scenes, taking us back to the fantastic flesh-and-blood approach of the 70s and 80s horror by John Carpenter and Sam Raimi or, going even further back, to earlier Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
The bright red blood and retro atmosphere do not detract from more modern editing, exploring the dark and unknown territory of the masculine and feminine mind.
A Wounded Fawn is a movie viscerally blending many classic cinematic influences with the everlasting Greek culture, packing one of the strangest and most engaging experiences from 2022.
The eternal battle between men and women
Travis Stevens and Nathan Faudree perfectly mark the steps of this descent into madness and supernatural, where each notch implies unraveling the protagonist, played by Josh Ruben.
He is the apex around which every aspect of the story revolves, including changes in the other characters and the directing visual style or narrative pacing.
Indeed at first, we see him as a fearless alpha predator whose macho attitude fascinates women, inevitably making them fall into his trap.
However, we are not talking about a relentless serial killer since he also fears a mysterious Red Owl apparition who (he says) compels him to commit these crimes.
It could be the personification of his murderous impulse, considering we later see how the avenging sisters remove this monster’s mask revealing the pathetic creature beneath.
Equally excellent is the portrayal of the female character played by Sarah Lind, an actress as beautiful as she is skilled that begins from the stressful stereotype of a traumatized woman in search of peace.
Of course, she will find nothing else in her so-called romantic date, yet this tragedy will transform her into a stronger and more confident woman, not necessarily a better person.
I would have liked to see a longer part with Malin Barr, the first victim of the evening, having the potential for a larger narrative.
Rest assured, however, for we will see her come back in the shape of one of these demonic beasts, though she is stripped of any personality, becoming an avenging monster.
A Wounded Fawn is a movie not for everyone, just look at the clear split of opinion in 2022 between those who think it is an expressionist masterpiece and those who instead think it is presumptuous garbage.