Serial killers are in fashion once again. It seems like every single week there is a new documentary or a new adaptation of some real-life events involving serial killers or their victims. There exists this fascination with these people that is hard to resist. It is disturbing but understandable that these beings, who exist outside the conventions of modern society, seem to fascinate and repel in an equal manner. Of course, filmmakers will seize the opportunity to make people watch. A Wounded Fawn is a film that does just that and is now available on Shudder.
A Wounded Fawn is a film directed by Travis Stevens and stars Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben. The film tells the story of a serial killer named Bruce, who kills women to get the sexual satisfaction and attention he doesn’t receive anywhere else. Bruce seems to have been able to remain unnoticed, and he is ready to make his move on his newest victim, a museum curator named Meredith. However, Bruce’s plan is about to take a turn as his plan doesn’t happen the way he wants.
A Wounded Fawn is clearly divided into two halves. The first one is a classic serial killer and victim scenario. We, as the audience, know what is about to happen, and the tension increases with each passing minute as we see Meredith getting into the killer’s den with no clue about what is going to happen to her. This is a classic Chekov’s gun, used in the best possible way. The second half is a descent into madness as Bruce travels inside and outside reality and sees with his own eyes the terrifying landscape of his mind.
One half of the film is quite good, while the other half is not so much. The story of the film feels very inconsistent, and it could be said that this is just half a movie. When that first half ends, the movie descends into the more abstract until the final minutes of its runtime. The movie makes some fantastic use of its credits, which is something very few people do. However, the road to get there is meandering with no purpose other than extending the runtime of the movie, so it can reach the 90-minute mark.
The idea for A Wounded Fawn would have worked so much better in the shape of a TV episode for an anthology TV show or something like that. It doesn’t really have the propulsion to sustain itself for 90 minutes, and the second half’s surreal imagery loses steam very quickly. The movie becomes kind of torturous at that point, and it starts to feel like one of those dream sequences that don’t know how to end. It just reminded me of that famous sequence in Living In Color.
The acting is solid, especially in that first half. Sarah Lind is especially compelling, and I would have loved seeing so much more from her in the movie. Josh Ruben is fine, but as far as serial killers go, he might be one of the least interesting depictions of one in recent memory. It might all be intentional, but focusing most of the movie on a character as plain as this one is asking a lot from the viewer. There are some allusions to Greek mythology and such, but the connection feels mostly like adding context, stating that this story is a reference to the classics and just that.
Nevertheless, the movie excels in its visual design and direction. There are some really cool and trippy sequences in the second half of the film, and by being filmed in 16 mm, the movie has a texture that makes it really feel like a movie from the 70s. Which is the feeling the movie is trying to replicate. There is a lot of Giallo in this movie, and while it doesn’t really manage to hit the heights of some classics in that genre, it does manage to hit a very nice level of visual fidelity. Sonia Foltarz, Taylor Barry, Erin LaSorsa, and Yusuf Mohammad, really deserve a shout-out for their work here.
The movie goes back and forth, trying to make some sort of comment on abusive relationships; as it states plainly in the first scene, we see Meredith, but it never goes beyond that, and this attempt feels somewhat hollow. The second half of the movie swings hard, and that should be applauded, but it never hits any of the balls being thrown at it. Thus, it feels like 45 minutes of wasted time that could have gone into a more focused type of story or at least into something more concrete while preserving the surreal elements.
In the end, A Wounded Fawn stands out as something different in the newest horror releases, which lately have chosen to be a lot more conventional than in past years. However, by trying to be different, it seems to lose sight of telling a coherent story that can compel the audience to see what happens to the characters until the end. The visual design of the movie really does a lot of the heavy lifting, especially in the second half, when the characters are basically lost in oblivion.