Release date – 18th October 2019, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 36 minutes, Director – Babak Anvari
A bartender (Armie Hammer) begins to be haunted by unexpected demons and images after accepting a mysterious call from a phone left behind at his bar.
Part way through the screening of Wounds at this year’s London Film Festival I was adamant that there wouldn’t be a funnier film over the next week and a half of festival films. Even my high hopes for Jojo Rabbit couldn’t have come close to the unintentionally laugh out loud nature of Babak Anvari’s follow-up to his 2016 feature debut the universally acclaimed Under The Shadow. In many ways Wounds almost seems to be the complete polar opposite of Under The Shadow, both written and directed by Anvari.
Wounds follows bartender and all-round everyday manly-man Will (Armie Hammer). When Will isn’t busy working at the bar he’s just your average everyday bloke; he plays video games and casually scratches his armpits through his sweaty pop-culture T-shirt while doing so, because, remember viewer, he’s just like you! However, Will’s life is instantly turned around when he accepts a call from a phone left behind at the bar – after a long, winding and, mostly needlessly, overly detailed opening. Soon, he begins to see images of what seems to be a dark tunnel, alongside increasingly disturbing visions of figures crawling out of wounds, skulls and bodies. The more he sees the more tormented Will feels by the phone, trying to return it to who it belongs to, which leads him to accepting more disturbing and poorly sounding calls. Something which he says is caused by “some nerd who’s into special effects”, which is also initially who it seems might have made this film.
As he falls further into insanity Will’s relationship with his non-plot-essential girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) begins to gradually crumble. Or at least whatever relationship was there in the first place does. The chemistry between Hammer and Johnson is so lacking that it’s easy to think that there are flatmates quarrelling over the electricity bill with more of a connection than these two. It’s not surprising when it seems like both the screenplay and all the performances throughout the film were bought from Ikea. At one point, when the various tunnels begin to appear on his computer, TV and phone screens – somehow possessing his partner to look endlessly into this void and becoming even more void of life than Johnson’s performance already seems to convey.
While there’s certainly nothing close to resembling any form of scare or even mild creepiness to be found in Wounds there’s no denying the slight entertainment factor that it does hold. As the second half arrives and the piece gets increasingly ridiculous and nonsensical the laughs begin to arrive. It’s almost a shame that this will only be dropped on Netflix to likely be watched by a handful of people on their own, or possibly teens with friends at a sleepover thinking that there might actually be some elements of horror. Because Wounds actually works really well as an audience experience, where multiple members of the audience are audibly laughing at the poorly constructed nature of the entire film, all stemming from a rather atrocious screenplay.
It’s highly possible that there’s a much better film within Wounds, that it started out as something scarier and potentially even more complex than the dull nonsense that it actually is. It’s been stated that the initial themes of the film related to PTSD, however when everything seems as dumb as it does it’s hard to believe that there was ever any underlying themes within this lazily constructed piece, where characters seem crowbarred in and certain narrative details tacked on just to further include them. The only thing that saves it are the laughs that it creates, and even a number of those are rather poor and only just raised. This truly is the complete opposite of Under The Shadow.
Wounds seems to have no attempt to create horror and tension, instead gaining a few laughs instead of scares. It;s certainly more of a dent in whatever Ikea product it was made film.