Travis Stevens’ A Wounded Fawn would make a perfect double feature with another 2022 horror movie, Fresh, with the theme of the two films being “don’t go to a house in the woods with a man you just met”. While the two films have a similar creepy setup to them, they are both very different movies. Fresh was a straightforward gross-out cannibal story, A Wounded Fawn is a little more complicated than that. Stevens has crafted something unexpected and bizarre, resulting in a unique midnight movie experience.
A Wounded Fawn is broken down into three acts, all very different from the last, yet all coming together nicely to tell a cohesive story. Act 1 finds Bruce Ernst (Josh Ruben) at an art auction for his employer in a heated bidding war with Kate Horna (Malin Barr), also bidding for her employer, over a sculpture. Kate wins the battle and later that evening, back at Kate’s house, Bruce shows up asking to purchase the sculpture for far more than what Kate’s employer paid. What starts as a cordial conversation turns violent and we viciously find out that Bruce is a serial killer.
Act 2 introduces us to Meredith (Sarah Lind), an artist who is about to take a weekend trip with a man she just met. When the man picks her up, we see that it is Bruce. This is a genius movie by Stevens because it rachets up the suspense immediately. We already saw what he did to Kate, and now we see Meredith is unknowingly going to be his next victim. The entirety of Act 2 is suspenseful and terrifying, though it doesn’t go the way Bruce had planned.
In Act 3, A Wounded Fawn goes in a completely different direction that I did not expect. As I wrote in my notes while watching the movie, “Act 3 is fucking wild”. What had been set up as a movie about a final girl getting back at a serial killer at his creepy cabin in the woods turns into a complete head trip. It is a delirious and shocking fever dream of a final act that, despite the first two acts being rather conventional, works even though it is completely different. I was in complete awe when the credits started rolling, especially with how the film ended. It is a bold direction for the film to go and I’m glad it strayed away from convention.
A Wounded Fawn is always creepy and constantly surprising. Ruben, who is quickly becoming a staple in the modern-horror landscape as an actor as well as a writer and director, is terrifyingly good as Bruce. The way he portrays Bruce as nice and charming in front of Meredith only to turn into a psychopath on a dime is impressive. Lind is also good during her moments in the film, never undermining Meredith as a character and portraying her as a strong, smart woman who is stuck in a terrible situation.
A Wounded Fawn is an impressively directed horror film by Travis Stevens. You never know what is coming next and you are always on the edge of your seat. It also looks good as well. The production design is stunning, especially in Bruce’s cabin, which pops with color. The 16mm cinematography adds an additional layer of old-school griminess to the film.
A Wounded Fawn is an unpredictable and suspenseful horror movie that is perfect for a midnight screening.
A Wounded Fawn played in the After Dark section of the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival.
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