Horror gets a Greek twist in A Wounded Fawn, Travis Stevens’ latest project that features Josh Ruben as a serial killer who gets more than he bargains for when he takes a potential victim away for a planned vacation from hell, but she ends up putting him through the proverbial ringer for his misdeeds. Watching the evolution of Stevens’ career as a filmmaker has been extremely fascinating over the last few years and A Wounded Fawn demonstrates that he’s someone who is looking for new ways to challenge himself as a storyteller. And while I am a fan of both of his previous films, I feel like A Wounded Fawn is easily his most ambitious effort yet in a variety of ways as both Stevens and co-writer Nathan Faudree find some clever ways of twisting our expectations by infusing their slasher story with a heightened sense of mythological surrealism, resulting in a wickedly wondrous descent into pure madness.
At the start of A Wounded Fawn, we’re introduced Bruce (Josh Ruben) at a hoity-toity art auction who is trying to secure a coveted sculpture depicting the Wrath of the Erinyes (Furies) but ends up being outbid by the more aggressive Kate (Malin Barr). This defeat is just part of what fuels Bruce’s actions from there in A Wounded Fawn as we eventually see him head out on what’s supposed to be an idyllic getaway with him taking the unsuspecting Meredith (Sarah Lind) to his vacation home tucked away in the woods so that he can murder her, all while being goaded on by a mysterious owl entity. But Meredith, who has been working through the aftermath of escaping an abusive relationship, isn’t ready to just roll over and play victim, and from there, Bruce’s desire for destruction is met with resistance. And as his own neuroses begin to play out, we watch as Bruce is forced to face his misdeeds, fueled by the wrath of the furies (which are essentially his victims who been transformed into these classic Greek characters) who aren’t about to let him get away with murder.
While Stevens’ approach in A Wounded Fawn has a total throwback vibe, to the point where it almost feels like he shot the project on film (I’m not totally sure if he did or didn’t, that’s how effective his techniques are here), the story that’s being told here feels very grounded in current day issues including violence against women and how many men out there are so willing to shirk responsibility for their actions. For the first one-third of Fawn, we follow Bruce’s intended victims, but as the story shifts its focus onto the killer and his reckoning, that’s when Rubens gets the opportunity to shine in new ways here, and it’s his completely unhinged performance that drives the film and takes this story into weirdly disturbing territory as we are thrust into this narrative from his deranged viewpoint.
The women of A Wounded Fawn are equally phenomenal as well, as we get to see them transform throughout the film into entities hellbent on enacting justice on Bruce, and I love just how meticulously made everything feels and yet, somehow, also feels like everyone is shooting from the hip all the same (it’s an intriguing balance that Stevens’ strikes here, and not one that’s easily achieved, so kudos there to the filmmaker and his creative team). Bruce’s rapid spiral downward into the depths of his darkened soul is wholly fascinating as the visuals of Fawn tread into the exceedingly surreal realm, and I must commend costume designer Erik Bergrin and the special effects team (which I believe was led by Ashley K. Thomas) for doing a brilliant job of being able to elevate the themes that are at play in this story with their work in the film as well. It’s also worth noting that the score by Vaaal is another huge highlight in A Wounded Fawn too, and I’m hoping we can get a proper score release for the movie down the line too. The songs featured in here are also great and I’m an immediate fan of several of the artists I hadn’t been exposed to prior to my viewing of Fawn, including The Tammys, Massage, and Cigarettes After Sex, so that was another thing I very much enjoyed, because those songs really add a lot to the film’s overall atmosphere.
As a whole, Travis Stevens unleashes a cinematic reckoning with A Wounded Fawn that truly feels like unlike anything I’ve seen this year thus far, even if it explores some thematic elements that we’ve seen in other films that tackle similar topics. Rubens delivers his greatest performance to date in Fawn and I love how this story does a fantastic job of subverting expectations at every turn and challenges viewers’ perceptions of depictions of violence against women in extremely surprising ways. A Wounded Fawn may not be a movie that will be for everyone, but it sure as hell was for me, and I hope that we continue to get this kind of thought-provoking material from Stevens in the future as well.
Movie Score: 4/5
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Author: Heather Wixson