A Wounded Fawn (2022) - Greek Mythology By Way of a Seventy’s Psychedelic Serial Killer Tale
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
I relish when art is the focus of a horror narrative but use a specific piece as the catalysis to unlock a grindhouse-level psychedelic fever dream, and I’m all in. The third film from writer/ director Travis Stephens (Jakob’s Wife), A Wounded Fawn, shows the filmmaker has elevated his game visually. Yet still keeping that intimacy and minimalistic feel that makes his work so personal. Written by Nathan Faudree and Stephens. Staring Sarah Lind (Cold Blood Legacy), Josh Ruben (Scare Me), and Malin Barr (Beach House).
Bruce (Ruben) just lost out on an auction for the coveted sculpture “The Wrath of the Erinyes,” a piece depicting the three Furies of Greek mythology. The work is a physical representation of the wrath of a woman scorned and the revenge they take on their assailant. Stalking and killing fellow art dealer Kate Horna (Barr) to retrieve it seems like a bad idea, even if a giant red owl tells you to.
Art curator Meredith (Lind) is getting ready for a romantic weekend with a guy she met at a show and has had a few promising dates with. After taking her power back since ending a toxic relationship, she’s ready for a new start. The problem is that her new man is Bruce, and we can see where this is heading. Despite some figurative and literal “red flags” on the drive-up, she is determined to make this weekend special.
A Wounded Fawn is told in two parts, much like a Shakespearean play. The first is that of a straightforward, lean serial killer tale where the audience is miles ahead of the protagonist. With solid tension building, a great atmosphere, and two actors whose onscreen chemistry lends a snappy back and forth, this alone would have been an intelligent thriller. Then the ghosts show up.
The second act goes full-blown supernatural revenge with the spirits doling out the cruelty and trauma so rightly deserved. They relish in their mental and physical torture, but it’s unclear if this is happening for real or that head wound Bruce suffers is worse than he thinks. Despite the uncertainty, it never stops feeling cathartic watching these furies, Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megaera, get their just desserts.
The latter half of A Wounded Fawn feels theatric. The acting, costumes, lighting straight out of an Argento film, and set pieces are all over the top in the best possible way. It all feels right the bigger and more bizarre it goes, even given budget constraints. You want this creep to suffer no matter how pathetic he becomes. There is an extended sequence over the credits that is so satisfying while tip-toeing the line into absurdity or parody. Josh Ruben deserves an award just for that scene alone.
Stephens and Faudree have done wonders with the script by subtly telegraphing the plot without talking down or overwhelming their audience. In the opening dialogue, we hear what the three furies are capable of: Megara, the grudging. Alecto, the unceasing, and Tisiphone, the punisher of murderers. There is even a line about how men should behave around this statue, but Bruce clearly wasn’t paying attention. They also wrote an intelligent, educated, and cunning female lead that earns her triumphs. A breath of fresh air from the usually lost cell service, trip in the woods type we too often see.
Sarah Lind as Meredith is captivating. Cautious, constantly checking in with her friend, but open to falling for someone new. Given her profession, being lured into a cabin that could act as a fine art gallery, she knows what she’s looking at and what shouldn’t be there. Once realizing what Bruce is capable of, her trying to compose herself and play along is such a masterclass in nuance that we’re as fearful for her as she is in the situation.
Josh Ruben has a gift for playing the charming creeps. His subtle turns from sweet to off-putting to downright menacing are like no other. So much of the latter half of the movie is reactive, but he’s also putting on a one-man clinic into madness. He has a way of making the audience yearn to see him suffer. While also paying the victim convincingly, he tends to draw a hint of sympathy before his misogyny comes back full circle, and we cry for more blood. A talented director in his own right, he really shines in front of the camera.
With A Wounded Fawn, director Travis Stephens has crafted a fable torn from the pages of mythology with a modern aesthetic. Shot on film, and given those extra scratches and touches, it feels like you’re watching a forgotten classic from the grindhouse era. The cast is phenomenal and chews the scenery in the best possible ways. Gore, scares and theatrics aside, it’s a satisfying tale of revenge and the physical and mental destruction of toxic masculinity at its darkest. Now Streaming on SHUDDER.