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Travis Stevens’ Latest Is A Wild, If Somewhat Incoherent, Horror-Show

Jan 20, 2023

Marrying two of the most exciting voices in contemporary horror — writer/director Travis Stevens and star Josh Ruben (himself an accomplished director) — Shudder’s “A Wounded Fawn” is a grainy, phantasmagoric trek into the woods and into the recesses of a serial killer’s mind. Sometimes feeling like two competing aesthetics fighting for primacy, “A Wounded Fawn” may not be as accomplished or coherent as Stevens’ and Ruben’s previous films. But it’s a pretty wild ride. 
READ MORE: The 50 Best Horror Movies Of The 21st Century So Far
Beginning by honing in on Ruben’s Bruce, an art auctioneer who can barely contain his pent-up rage against women, the film starts with a brutal kill that sets the tone for a lean, if somewhat derivative, woman-in-peril film. That woman would be Meredith (Sarah Lind), who has just started dating Bruce and, despite her better judgment, agrees to a weekend in a remote cabin with him. 
Once arriving — and finding an expensive greek statue that her work recently appraised — Meredith begins to think something is amiss. Until this point, “A Wounded Fawn” could be madlibbed together by any horror viewer, with Stevens’ grainy cinematography and Ruben’s eccentric performance almost feeling like riffs on an overextended genre. But Meredith is much more intelligent than a typical final girl, and the film isn’t exactly interested in seeing this narrative entirely through. Instead, the film is split into two distinct sections. 
The first plays out as a grindhouse-adjacent take on a woman trapped alone with a possible killer as Stevens ratchets up the tension on the drive to the cabin and the dark woods surrounding the impersonal home. Meredith knows something is wrong, constantly checking in with her friends, but she also ascribes these feelings to the oddness of early dating. 
The second half, however, embraces the insanity, riffing on Greek mythology and psychedelics to memorable, if absurd, results. As Bruce shows his true personality and Meredith escapes into the woods, “A Wounded Fawn” moves away from its lean B-movie origins and turns towards Lovecraftian horror. 
If the movie somewhat devolves into nonsensical imagery and abandons its plot in this latter portion, Stevens nevertheless maintains an interesting tonal control, subjectively placing the viewer in Bruce’s point of view as outside forces take over his body and mind. As Bruce circles through the woods looking for Meredith, he’s confronted by several surreal images and body horror as pagan creatures literalize his inner psychosis.  
It all gives off the feeling of a low-budget film crew taking mushrooms and seeing what happens, which seems to be the point. It’s funny, a little nightmarish, and probably has an allegorical meaning, though that part is obscured by the onslaught of images that don’t seem fully realized or even thought through. 
“A Wounded Fawn” is also much less consistent than Stevens’ haunted-house riff in “Girl on the Third Floor” or the Giallo-infused comedy of “Jakob’s Wife.” That’s definitely purposeful, as Stevens lets his freak flag fly with every shot in the final thirty minutes to messy but memorable results (including a hysterical end-credit scene).
But, more than anything, “A Wounded Fawn” showcases Stevens’ interest in smashing together two distinct horror styles in the same film. It doesn’t always work, but it further proves that Stevens (and Ruben) are consistently interesting filmmakers, even when they stumble. [B-]

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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