LFF 2019 ‘Wounds’ review: Does Something Lurk Beneath the Surface?

Will (Armie Hammer) seems happy at the bar he works at. He knows the locals, even the violent ones, and seems capable of maintaining the fragile peace of the place. One day a group of college students leave behind a phone. Taking it home, Will and his girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) find themselves stalked by a malevolent presence that seems to be luring them into

Babak Anvari has followed up Under the Shadow with a story about a hollow man. Will is driven by routine and selfish desires. He has no love for his girlfriend and refuses to respect his friends. Hammer plays Will with a quiet rage that realistically creates a sense of a man with no spiritual satisfaction. The horror is able to manipulate him so effectively because he is entirely untethered.

Dakota Johnson’s character is beguiling, herself experiencing her own battle with the dark beyond, but she is effectively here to form an aspect of Will’s isolation. Of course all ancillary characters must form a part of the main character’s journey, but Carrie feels a little neglected by the film as well as by Will.

I’ve never been very fond of jump scares and it’s a shame that Anvari startled the audience so frequently with sudden loud noises and flashes of disturbing images. He’s very effective in building atmosphere and creating a sense of foreboding. It’s in these moments that the horror of the film excels. Jump scares are most effective when used far more sparingly than in Wounds.

The real horror of wounds comes from the fear of the obscure and the unknown. The recurring form of the evil is a long straight tunnel that leads only to darkness. It’s a very sinister image that is hints at the true horror of Will’s life. The tunnel could well be his future, a long sprawling but ultimately empty passage that menacingly stretches before him. There’s something down there waiting for him, something with a menacing eye that watches him back.

Not quite delivering on the promise of Under the Shadow, Wounds is nevertheless a very unique and striking horror film. It’s a mediation on what it means to live an empty life and the dark places those wounds can lead you to.

Four Stars

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