The world of torments that the antagonist of A Wounded Fawn (2022) experiences is the ecstatic catharsis that Sundance’s Fresh (2022) did not deliver. Travis Stevens’ film is bold and fully immersed in the power of imagination that confidently overcomes budgetary confinement.
Before you sigh at the painstakingly schematic plot of A Wounded Fawn (2022), bear in mind that this beaten path’s just the ignition. Indeed, Travis Stevens’ film starts off at a point that horror fans know all too well – the crazed murderer and his opening act of violence.
What’s A Wounded Fawn (2022) about?
Bruce (Josh Ruben), a handsome charmer, pays a visit to the winner of an auction, Kate (Malin Barr). Presumably, keen on buying out an ancient statue for his customer, Bruce takes it by force – along with the last breath of its rightful owner. Stevens hints that the savage act of violence was prompted by a supernatural being called the Red Owl, a humongous pile of feathers that appears in front of Bruce.
Once the antagonist’s introduced as a wicked faux macho with a thirst for blood, A Wounded Fawn (2022) shifts the point of view to Meredith (Sarah Lind), a dark-haired single woman who has recently started dating someone. The relationship progresses in a snap, so Meredith is beaming with excitement at the prospect of the upcoming weekend getaway. Unfortunately, Meredith credulously turns off rational thinking, and soon the romantic trip transmogrifies into a night of full-fledged terror.
By that time Travis Stevens and young DP Ksusha Genenefeld have a few chances to flex their muscles. After one tracking shot inside the chalet – when Meredith swings to Mandfred Mann’s L.S.D. – and a few neat tricks misleading us to believe A Wounded Fawn (2022) might be a haunted-house movie, Stevens opens the gateway to hell, with all forces of witchcraft available at hand.
Greek mythology fuels horrors in A Wounded Fawn (2022)
The uphill walk down the beaten path prepares us for a true feast for genre fans.
Bruce takes the wheel once again, but with the reverse captor-victim situation. Battling his Red Owl demon, the man’s haunted by Erinyes – the three mythological custodians of justice. Known to be the hunters of men who committed crimes against the natural order, Erinyes bring their wrath, inflicting all kinds of punishments on Bruce. Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone are all smartly foreshadowed with the ancient statue that Bruce steals. Their appearances provide the director with a plethora of opportunities to conjure up occult-inspired costumes, set designs, and dreamlike sequences that create a grotesque but also effectively frightening atmosphere.
As both the antagonist and the victim in the film’s second half, Josh Ruben carries the show with utmost confidence. The actor’s bravado matches the one of Sebastian Stan in Fresh (2022), although Ruben takes a more maniacal, less self-restraint, and composed approach. Bruce reveals his animalistic instincts, and they really kick in when the Greek Erinyes start their fun.
Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben shine bright
Although Travis Stevens and co-writer Nathan Faudree emphasize the torments of Bruce, Sarah Lind gets a chance to nail her part as a caught-off-guard fly caught in the spider’s web. Meredith doesn’t belong to the dispensable type of horror lead whose demise deserves no more of a comment than “oh, touche”. The actor’s work deploys the necessary counterweight for the second half, dominated by Josh Ruben’s craze. Lind and Ruben are an arguably perfect match too. Even when their dynamic disappears – as planned in the script – this chemistry subsists in the subcontext of the film.
A Wounded Fawn (2022) constitutes an example of a horror film that commingles entertainment with the avoidance of contrivances and shortcuts. At the same time, Stevens applies the no-holds-barred method to horror too. Ominous score pieces, tribal masks, and robes ornament the appearances of the mythological haunts, and one could clearly see how The Wicker Man’s (1973) written all over them. Vaaal’s score ranges from mellifluous oldies to creepy cabalistic designs, yet the blend captures the magnitude of styles and tones orchestrated by Stevens.
The director flirts with kitsch too
The slapstick designs strike an over-the-top tone, which is far more intentional when considering the vintage-stylized aesthetic of A Wounded Fawn (2022). In one scene, Josh Ruben fights a serpent-like animatronic chimney, shortly after we see Malin Barr’s character sitting butt-naked on the top of the wood stove. I bet some viewers will find this scene hilarious, and yet it does not jeopardize the efforts to scare us.
All in all, A Wounded Fashion (2022) isn’t a bone-deep drama that wears the harrowing cloak of a horror film. We’ve had enough of them. Despite the Greek mythology regalia, Travis Stevens goes free solo, letting his horror-infused spectacle work its dark magic.