The Movie Waffler Now On Netflix - WOUNDS | The Movie Waffler

Now On Netflix - WOUNDS

wounds review
A bartender takes home a cellphone left behind by a customer, which leads him into a surreal and dangerous world.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Babak Anvari

Starring: Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, Zazie Beetz, Karl Glusman, Christin Rankins

wounds poster

British-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari made his feature debut in 2016 with Under the Shadow, a low budget horror set in a Tehranian apartment block during Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s. That movie relied heavily on an impressive lead performance and Anvari's clever use of his limited location, but ultimately it descended into haunted house clichรฉs. With his American debut, Wounds, Anvari has been granted a larger budget and a cast of recognisable stars, but once again it's a movie anchored heavily by its lead actor, and which runs out of ideas in its final stretch.

wounds review

Based on Nathan Ballingrud's novella 'The Visible Filth', Wounds stars Armie Hammer as Will, a bartender in a grotty, cockroach infested New Orleans dive bar. Will takes a decidedly chilled out approach to his work, allowing underage drinkers to guzzle beers and giving out free drinks to any women willing to get naked. He has no qualms about getting high on his bar's supply while on duty either, ending most shifts as the most drunk person in his bar.

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One night a vicious brawl breaks out, leaving an oil-rigger with a nasty open wound across his jaw. When Will calls the cops, a group of underage kids flee the bar, leaving behind the cellphone they were using to film the fight. Will pockets the phone and returns home to the house he shares with his girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson in a role that asks little beyond looking good in a t-shirt and panties combo), a student at a local university (how a bartender and a student can afford such a big house is beyond me).

wounds review

Will begins to receive a series of texts to the phone he swiped from someone named Garrett, claiming that he's in danger and pleading for help. Assuming the kids are pranking him, Will ignores this, but when he looks at the phone's gallery he discovers a series of pictures and videos that appear to show murdered corpses. As he is stalked by mysterious strangers, Will begins to experience increasingly disturbing hallucinations and becomes aggressive in his interactions with Carrie and the patrons of his bar. Meanwhile Carrie becomes obsessed with identifying Garrett and finds herself drawn down a rabbit hole of occultism on the internet.

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It's easy to see why Hammer was attracted to the role of Will, which allows him to escape the sort of preppy characters he's become associated with ever since his star-making turn playing toff twins in The Social Network. Will is an initially fascinating character, a thirty-something who gives the outward appearance of someone who's content with his lot in life (and given he has a steady job, a great house, a beautiful girlfriend, and lives in one of the most vibrant cities in America, he should be) yet seems to be eating himself from within with frustration. Hammer sinks himself into the role, casting aside his affable persona to portray a character who grows increasingly unlikeable as the narrative progresses.

wounds review

As a character study, Wounds hooks you in from the start, but the further it evolves into horror territory the less interesting it becomes. Think Drinking Buddies meets Jacob's Ladder and you'll have some idea of how this plays out, but in the movie's second half Anvari relies too heavily on nightmarish hallucinatory imagery that simply reminds us of better movies that have tread this sort of ground in the past.

What might be most interesting about Wounds is how Anvari employs the city of New Orleans as a backdrop. Given its links with Voodoo, the Louisiana city has long proven a fave for horror filmmakers, but Anvari strips it down to its workaday mundanity. There are no Mardi Gras sequences, no visits to magical negro witch-doctors - it's as nondescript an urban locale as Columbus, Ohio.

Wounds is on Netflix UK now.

2019 movie reviews