Henry Jordan is compelled in all the wrong ways by Babak Anvari’s sophomore horror feature.
When filmmakers burst onto the screen with a brilliant debut, it’s usually only a matter of time before bigger studios start calling, with bundles of cash usually tucked under their arms, ready to be wasted. They’re often a mixed bag, with the good including Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and the action anarchy of John McTiernan’s Predator but the bad including the fascinating but messy Under the Silver Lake from David Robert Mitchell and Richard Kelly’s woeful Donnie Darko follow-up Southland Tales. Unfortunately, the new film from Babak Anvari, who previously made Under the Shadow, fits into the latter camp.
For those who aren’t in the know, Under the Shadow was a British/Iranian horror movie from a couple of years back and while its scares could be a tad generic at times, it conjured an effective mood in a unique setting (war-torn Iran in the nineties) and was effective enough that the shortcomings didn’t bother me too much. Wounds is an altogether different piece, set in New Orleans and starring Luca Guadagnino collaborators Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson, among other recognisable faces. Hammer is a bartender who just loves drinking and cheating on his girlfriend, when one day a bar fight leads to someone dropping a mysterious phone, which has assorted spooky stuff on it. If you know anything about the haunted video from The Ring, then you know exactly the kind of thing: strange tunnels, disembodied heads, cookie-cutter terror. Still, spooky setup, right? Wrong.
This is a film obsessed with vacuity, a “lack of” in people, the world, everything around us, yet the ultimate irony is that this film becomes so obsessed with things that are empty shells that it becomes an empty shell.
The problem is, there is nothing beyond that setup. This is a film obsessed with vacuity, a “lack of” in people, the world, everything around us, yet the ultimate irony is that this film becomes so obsessed with things that are empty shells that it becomes an empty shell. Horror films like this should build and build, if not offering an explanation for the events then at least building to some grand spectacle of a finale. Let’s take last year’s Suspiria remake as an example, a film that offered vague explanations on some very confusing lore but whose jaw-dropping finale left an impression, regardless of how the rest of the film made you feel. Conversely, Wounds offers nothing for its entire runtime and then ends on an absolute screamer of a final image. To clarify, screamer as in, will make you scream with laughter, not for the first time in the film.
What you have probably worked out by now is that Wounds is not a very good film and you’re probably waiting for me not to recommend it. But oh contraire, I do recommend this! I’m serious, you guys have to see this. No, it isn’t an effective horror film, not even close, but as a comedy? I think we’re stepping on very fertile ground here. You bring in a bunch of your friends, getting everyone nice and drunk, then just start tearing into this film. It’s only about 90 minutes, it is stuffed with things prime to be mocked and by the end, the shared experience will have brought you all together. Just whack this on for pres, have a laugh and then on to TP, where the real horrors of the night await you. So I guess I recommend Wounds? It’s so stupid, you really have to see it.