Director – Babak Anvari
Cast – Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, Zazie Beetz, Karl Glusman
Cast like a Luca Guadagnino movie and directed as if by a film school grad tweaking after a lecture on Antonioni, Wounds is a horror picture with highbrow aspirations, executed in decidedly schlocky fashion. It begins intriguingly enough, but stumbles like so many scary movies, in its final act.
Released in the US as a Hulu original, and in other territories (including India) on Netflix, director Babak Anvari’s film is an effective psychological thriller that completely ignores its twisted premise in favour of building unnecessary mythology as it goes along.
Watch the Wounds trailer here
Armie Hammer plays a regular Joe who tends the bar at a New Orleans establishment, frequented by what seems like the entire neighbourhood. On any given night, cops can be seen fraternizing with the local goons, raggedy bikers sit across from local musicians, and terrified teenagers tentatively sip on their first beers as regulars demands their regular poison. But regardless of how crowded it gets, Will — that’s Hammer’s character — makes sure to reserve a seat right next to the bar for the girl he has a crush on. The trouble is, neither Will nor Alicia (Zazie Beetz) is single.
Not only does Wounds offer a fascinatingly dull depiction of a disintegrating relationship — Dakota Johnson, as Will’s girlfriend, is nearly as useless as the computer screen she perpetually stares at — it is not at all the grave, Heart of Darkness quoting existentialist thriller that it thinks it is. Haunted mobile phone movie? That’s more like it.
Dakota Johnson in a still from Netflix’s Wounds.
The phone didn’t have to be haunted, by the way. I was perfectly on board till around when Will found it in the aftermath of a bar fight, and after cracking the passcode discovered some truly gruesome pictures of a murdered corpse on it. But things began going downhill the moment Will decided (for reasons best known to himself) to not hand over the damned device to the police, and instead take it home, thereby allowing it to unleash its demonic powers on him.
This is, as you’d agree, quite ridiculous. Phones can’t haunt people! Unless, of course, they know that they are being used as metaphorical devices to highlight humanity’s ever-growing dependence on technology, which makes the premise of the film sound like something a peeved off parent would come up with to get their teenage child to play outdoors more often.
Phones can, however, very realistically contain pictures of dead bodies, and god knows what other obscenities. And they’re nearly as likely, in fact, to be forgotten at a bar for strangers to find. That’s an interesting idea.
Armie Hammer in a still from Wounds.
But alas, Wounds would much rather focus on strange demonic rituals, gory imagery, and empty jump scares. Which is to say, it’s like any other run-of-the-mill scary movie. And poor Armie Hammer has been stranded yet again, the square peg in a round hole that he is, in a film that just won’t have him. Despite numerous attempts, Hollywood still hasn’t found an ideal slot for him, and regrettably, neither is he chameleonic enough to adapt to different kinds of films. He is, however, as reliably strong in Wounds as he was in, say, his tentpoles or his quirky romances. This is the first time things haven’t gone the way they were supposed to for Will, and his sheer cluelessness at how to handle the situation brings to mind the self-satisfied confidence of the ‘Winklevii’ from The Social Network.
Spare a thought for Zazie Beetz, though. This is the second film in a matter of weeks in which she is reduced to being the object of a messed-up man’s desires, and little else. In both Joker and Wounds, straight white men attempt to forcibly kiss her character, who gives in — at least superficially. But this would be reading too much into a film that is, let it not be forgotten, a haunted mobile phone movie. The hunt for the perfect Halloween film continues.