Between Girl on the Third Floor and Jakob’s Wife, writer/director Travis Stevens has already established himself as a director that isn’t afraid to take chances...
Having just played at Fantastic Fest, A Wounded Fawn is a bold psychodrama that is by far Stevens’ most daring film to date.
Set in the world of extravagant art, the film follows Meredith (Sarah Lind), a museum curator in the midst of putting herself back together after a damaging relationship. Art Broker Bruce (Josh Ruben) seems like just the handsome lay she needs. Intelligent, suave, he’s a dream come true. When the two go on a weekend trip to Bruce’s swanky remote cabin, Meredith discovers there’s something horrible lurking underneath his cool smile. But she isn’t the only one about to face a reckoning.
Like the disturbed maniac which Ruben plays, A Wounded Fawn is not at all what it appears to be. The psycho-killer meets unsuspecting victim setup is a mere disguise for the utter madness that is Stevens’ third feature. Blending Fulci-esque surrealism with the deranged terror of The Shining and a little Greek mythology for good measure, A Wounded Fawn is an unforgettable descent into the deepest, darkest parts of our souls. Watching this film is akin to munching on mushrooms on a cold, eerie night. Everything seems normal at first…until it doesn’t. Strange sounds rip through the air. Tension quickens the heart. And suddenly we’re seeing red owl people that look like they stepped out of the movie Stage Fright (1987), encased in delicious mood-lighting and atmospheric fog.
A Wounded Fawn is a blood-soaked stroke of genius which shows Stevens as an artist at the top of his game. Every element of the film is masterful, from a nerve-tingling sound design to the exquisite use of color which creates an image so decadent you can almost taste it. Shot on grainy 16mm and glistening with bright-red blood, Stevens expresses an insatiable passion for 70s horror which transports the viewer back in time. Only unlike the films of that period, A Wounded Fawn twists gender tropes to create a uniquely satisfying shredding of toxic masculinity.
Assisting in that endeavor are brilliant performances from both Lind and Ruben. Lind projects every ounce of discomfort or absolute fury which courses through the audience’s veins, while Ruben makes your flesh crawl off the bones with a chilling creep-factor.
Methodical. Mesmerizing. Downright mind-boggling. There is nothing quite like A Wounded Fawn. Part broiling thriller. Part fever-dream. Stevens offers up something fearless in its experimental execution. That experiment likely won’t produce results for those expecting a more traditional endeavor, especially during the film’s utterly bonkers second half reminiscent of Evil Dead 2, but one thing’s for sure; A Wounded Fawn is a nightmarish vision that will haunt your mind for years to come.
By Matt Konopka