A Wounded Fawn (2022) Review at Frightfest – SciFiNow
A wounded fawn opens with a quote from Leonora Carrington about the sudden realization of her embodied vulnerability – and later we’ll see a copy of Susan L. Aberth’s book Leonora Carrington: surrealism, alchemy and art (2010), while a (long-dead) character (Katie Kuang) from the film’s backstory also shares the first name Carrington. It is not difficult to understand why this surrealist and feminist artist should have such an important place in a film that also highlights art, feminism and surrealism.
The first narrative sequence shows the auction of a Hellenistic statuette representing Orestes attacked by the three Erinyesor Furies – the terrifying female agents of divine justice and vengeance staged as the chorus of Aeschylus’ tragic trilogy closer The Eumenides.
Bruce Ernst (Josh Ruben) finds himself outbidding Kate Horna’s (Malin Barr) item, then, unable to let go of a pretty thing when he sees one, creeps in with a much higher bid at the luxury home of Kate, where he murders her with a metal claw, taking the statuette for himself. For Bruce is part larceny collector and part serial killer, performing his acts of violence against women as ritual sacrifices to the anthropoid Red Owl (Marshal Taylor Thurman) in his head.
“I’ve learned not to absolve a man for his transgressions against me,” Meredith Tanning (Sarah Lind) tells her therapist (Nikki James). Recovering from the trauma of a three-year relationship with an abusive partner, Meredith is now ready to “get laid” again, much to the approval of her two female colleagues (Laksmi Priyah Hedemark, Tanya Everett) , as they chat in the gallery of the museum where they work together, their status as a female trio reflected in the many paintings of the Erinyes decorating the walls around them.
Meredith’s date, however, is Bruce, and as he leads her to his secluded woodland retreat and shows off its art-laden modernist interiors (including this stolen Furies statuette, which Meredith immediately recognizes), the flags reds, natural and supernatural, begin to be elevated, and our increasingly panicked heroine finds herself both victim and vindictive agent in a clash of myths and tragic wit storyline, as Bruce comes to resemble the his namesake Bruce Campbell’s best-known character facing one nightmarish bloody punishment after another in this cabin in the woods.
Co-written with Nathan Faudree, this third feature from writer/director Travis Stevens is reminiscent of his first, The girl on the third floor (2019), as once again a man falls prey to his own toxic masculinity and a history of misogyny.
Told in two acts, this dreamlike, irrational tale of sin, denial and self-torment sees art and legend come to life, as three Furies rise once again to harass and haunt their wounded victim. The incipient surrealism of these nightmares in a damaged brain certainly justifies the repeated references to Carrington, even as the three main characters share their surnames with the surrealist artist. Dorothee Tanning and Max Ernst (a real couple) and Kati Hornaall of whose images also permeate the second act of the film (another bidder at the sale, played by Leandro Taub, also has a name, Marcel Champ, which roughly evokes a key figure in early 20th century conceptual art).
Just as Orestes was hunted down by the Erinyes for the murder of his own mother, Bruce insists on referring to Meredith by the all-too-familiar hypocoristic Mer, carefully pronounced to sound like the French word for “mother,” simple. For here art is realized, reimagined and weaponized in a new tale of ancient myth, as a statue becomes a moving image of female vengeance.
A Wounded Fawn had its international premiere at Fear Feast 2022and is coming to Shudder later this year. Find more SciFiNow reviews here.