Wounds | New Netflix Horror Doesn’t Cut Deep Enough

Babak Anvari burst onto the horror scene in 2016 with a bang. His supernatural horror movie Under the Shadow dealt with fears of war and terrorism along with the encroaching fear of the supernatural haunting you. It was a strong debut that remained socially conscious and had much more to say than the average run of the mill horror movies these days. Three years later and Anvari has teamed up with Netflix for an adaptation of Nathan Ballingrud’s best seller The Visible Filth. The question is: would Anvari be able to follow on the momentum of his creepy debut and deliver another socially conscious horror hit for the masses?

Wounds follows charismatic bartender, Will (Armie Hammer), and his life surrounding his job at local bar Rosie’s. Will is like anyone else really. He juggles his relationship and friends in between working late shifts. On one particular night though he witnesses a group of Rosie’s regulars become entangled in a vicious brawl while a group of college kids flee the scene when things take a bloody turn. After everything calms down, Will finds a phone belonging to the college kids and his life is changed forever.

Wounds is socially conscious just like Under the Shadow but in a different way. It targets the current social reliance on mobile phones and young people’s need to find the next big thrill in life even when it may be a step too far. Anvari uses the mobile phone Will finds almost like another antagonist in the movie much like Hideo Nakata utilized the videotape and its ominous nature in Japanese cult horror The Ring. It’s undoubtedly interesting and is easily the best aspect of Babak Anvari’s vision. Unfortunately, that’s as positive as it gets for Wounds.

Wounds is all over the place. The constant juggling of Will’s dying relationship, seemingly doomed friendships and lack of empathy or respect as the movie progresses condemn it to failure. The components surrounding Will could be interesting but they just aren’t developed here. By the horror’s mid-point, these elements become entangled in the weirder side of Wounds’ proceedings – a collection of surreal imagery to show off Anvari’s avant-garde stylisms and nothing more – and just dissipate. By the conclusion, you just don’t care what happens to Will’s relationship with his partner (Dakota Johnson) or friends because there’s no real payoff worth your viewing time.

Armie Hammer is decent as Will at first. Yet, as the movie delves into the depths of the bizarre, his performance tethers the line between satire and dreadful acting. It doesn’t help that at its strangest, Wounds’ script is extremely poor, leading to some unconvincing delivery by Hammer. Perhaps, this was what Anvari was striving for given the odd nature of the film. If it was, it wasn’t executed with nearly enough conviction to truly captivate.

As Will’s girlfriend, Dakota Johnson gives a usual Dakota Johnson performance – lacking any emotion or depth throughout. Even Brad William Henke’s Eric or Zazie Beetz’s Alicia are sparsely used and when they are in the foreground, it’s simply just to foreshadow why Will is the way he is by the movie’s end.

The surrealism within Wounds is probably what will excite viewers the most about Anvari’s tale or will cause them to click that power off button when watching. Some of the imagery regarding Will’s conflict is extremely well done from a practical effects and CGI perspective. It isn’t hard to see that some of these scenes will linger long in the mind afterwards for some horror fans. But for others, they may seem like filler. This is because once again, they don’t really correlate or go anywhere.

Wounds tries to remain enigmatic like Ari Aster’s Hereditary or Robert Eggers’ The Witch. But both those movies delivered truly creepy images, ones that eventually culminated in an ending that held no punches and wasn’t afraid to divulge answers among its madness. Wounds fails in this respect. You finish watching feeling cheated almost, trying to wrap your confused mind around what Anvari was attempting to achieve. I wanted to know what the consequences were of what was happening and leave Wounds feeling like it truly got under my skin. Instead, you simply found out how it happened, what happened, where it happened and when it happened. Anvari’s highlighting of the evils of mobile phones is admirable. It’s just Wounds isn’t much more than that.

Wounds is streaming on Netflix now.

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