Wounds

Release: Friday, October 18, 2019 (Hulu — U.S./Netflix internationally)

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Written by: Babak Anvari

Directed by: Babak Anvari

The word ‘wounds’ really makes me feel icky. It’s a trigger for me like ‘moist’ is for others. (Sorry if I just made you wince.) I hate. The word. Wounds.

Masochist that I am, I chose to watch a movie with that as the title. Appropriately it grossed me out, but not always in a good way. It’s a weird, nasty, inexplicable (also not-in-a-good-way) psychological/possession thriller set in The Big Easy, featuring a likable cast including Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, Karl Glusman (yes, that Karl Glusman) and the rising Zazie Beetz and costarring cockroaches — thousands of ’em. All of a sudden my college days at 2305 Highland Avenue seem not so bad.

W****s is the second feature length film from British-Iranian director Babak Anvari. I wasn’t entirely bowled over by his previous effort, the 2016 Tehran-set thriller Under the Shadow but unfortunately his follow-up only serves to make that one look superior. The story follows Will, a perpetually boozing N’awlins bartender played by Armie Hammer, as his week goes from bad to worse to just plain disgusting after he takes home a phone left behind at the bar he keeps. It belongs to one of the underage college kids who fled the scene when a brawl broke out between a few of the regulars (Brad William Henke as Eric; Luke Hawx as Marvin — good ole boys with the builds of a former NFL player and pro wrestler respectively).

What at first appears to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of being careless with one’s phone — a creepy scene suggests just how easy it is for the wrong person to unlock all the wonders hidden within our personal devices, no matter how sophisticated the lock screen pattern — evolves into a lackadaisically paced, occasionally head (and armpit)-scratching descent into madness and obsession that finds Will and his girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) battling forces no one, including the audience, can hope to understand.

A hammered Hammer does well with a script that characterizes men as confrontational bulls incapable of showing affection and maybe even unworthy of it and women as the bane of their existence . . . or at the very least, the source of their emotional w****s. (Aha! I see what you’re doing, Mr. Anvari — your movie title is a double entendre.*) Johnson does what she can as Carrie, but her arc is so rushed in development it’s stunning how anyone could have thought this was sufficient. She’s too good for Will, who prefers living in the moment to moving up to the next level in life. While Carrie’s actively trying to better herself — she’s writing a term paper that bizarrely gets sidelined when she becomes consumed by the mystery of what’s on that stupid phone — Will spends almost the entire movie lusting after his bar friend Alicia (Zazie Beetz), whose boyfriend Jeffrey (Glusman) struggles to assert himself as a tough guy.

Writer/director Babak Anvari, as he proved with his début effort, is good at establishing and sustaining an ominous atmosphere. Events take their sweet time to live up to the vibes telegraphed perhaps too early by the soundtrack but eventually they do, particularly in a memorable, if vomit-inducing climax that leaves as big a mark visually as it does aurally. Anvari also takes advantage of setting, turning the host city of Mardi Gras into a ghost town where oversized bugs seem in greater abundance than people.

However, his inability to elucidate why any of this supernatural/sacrificial gobbledygook matters proves catastrophic. The transformations of our (quite honestly unlikable) protagonists makes less than no sense. Tertiary characters surface in weird ways only to be unceremoniously kicked to the cockroach-infested curb, though the product placement for the Dodge Charger is not to be understated. Frustratingly that shocking, gruesome final scene is far better than anything that has come before it in terms of delivering the horror. In a better movie though it might have been the rule, not the terribly obvious exception.

* Okay, so technically his movie is based on a novella called The Visible Filth. Why, oh why couldn’t they have just stuck with that name?! That’s so much better than . . . ugh, I can’t even type it. 

Recommendation: Cockroaches, cockroaches and, oh, what’s this? More cockroaches. Wounds‘ shock value is more like shlock value. Your time is too valuable to waste on a movie that fails to justify itself. The most shocking thing about this movie is how it attracted a cast this good. Though I wonder how much worse this might have been without it. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 95 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com; http://www.variety.com 

14 thoughts on “Wounds

    • If I am able to scrounge up some cash this week I’m going to be stoked to see it. I’m so broke right now it’s not even funny. 😣

  1. I too found Under the Shadow underwhelming tho many seemed to like it.

    I’m kinda tempted to watch this based on your reaction to it!! Hehe, I think I’ll give this a try 😛

    • If you do get around to watching this I’ll be curious to see what you thought. A solid cast here that’s for sure. One of the movie’s big strengths. Unfortunately as time goes on Anvari really loses control of the story, IMO

  2. It’s a weird movie because it doesn’t feel entirely pointless until it’s over. I thought it did a good job of setting things up, but once you realize it was setting up literally nothing then the disappointment kicks in. The final shot, I thought, was fantastic but it needed a LOT more of that.

    • **SPOILER-IFIC COMMENT**

      The final scene is really good! I was just so caught off guard by the end credits following it immediately. For me, that spoke to how confused the development of the arcs of Hammer’s character (and to a lesser extent Dakota Johnson’s) were. “Make me whole.”/proceeds to eat guy’s face off. Did I miss something there? he went from asshole to evil in the blink of an eye!

      I had a hard time figuring out if Hammer was meant to be this evil entity from the very beginning, or if he becomes “possessed” by the higher power cult or what-the-hell-ever it was supposed to be. Was this a statement on being a creeper by looking into someone’s phone? About being lazy and not willing to do the work to find out the truth (because if that’s the case, Dakota Johnson’s character makes no sense. She gets punished by digging too deeply).

      I need answers Ryan! I need them badly!

      • Yeah same. I’m not sure even the director could answer them, honestly. It just seemed like since his character had no morals (letting the underage kids drink, cheating on his gf, being an alcoholic) made him the “perfect vessel” for some stupid reason lol.

  3. Wow, sounds like this W movie was as hard for you as it would be for me. Sounds like it’s not even worth it – so thanks for taking one for the team.

    • It’s wince-inducing, and sometimes that was quite fun. However the lack of internal logic drove me up the cockroach-infested walls.

  4. Ouch. You may have saved me a wasted 90 minutes or so. I’ve noticed quite a few new films etc showing up on Netflix, and its always a tricky thing sifting out the good from the yucky.

    • Indeed it is! I was drawn to the cast here. They do a good job of selling their character’s off-putting-ness. I could have mentioned more in-depth how effective Brian William Henke is — a total bruiser. And if you have a fondness for cock-a-roaches, this movie hooks that sh*t up!

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