The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - A WOUNDED FAWN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - A WOUNDED FAWN

a wounded fawn review
A serial killer lures an unsuspecting victim to a remote cabin.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Travis Stevens

Starring: Josh Ruben, Sarah Lind, Malin Barr, Katie Kuang, Laksmi Hedemark

a wounded fawn poster

Actor Josh Ruben made his feature debut as writer/director with the recent Scare Me, a post #MeToo horror movie in which he cast himself as an over-confident man who gets his comeuppance at the hands of a woman during a stay at a remote cabin. It's easy then to see why he agreed to star in director Travis Stevens' A Wounded Fawn, as here he's once again cast as an over-confident man who gets his comeuppance at the hands of a woman during a stay at a remote cabin.

a wounded fawn review

While Scare Me saw Ruben play a man whose biggest crime was believing he was a more talented writer than a woman who had published several books, here he's a fully fledged serial killer. In the first of the film's two key nods to Psycho, we watch a woman who we initially assume might be the movie's heroine meet her end after allowing Ruben's Bruce into her home.

A Wounded Fawn opens in an exclusive New York auction house where a classical Greek figurine depicting three women taking vengeance on a man (yeah, this isn't the most subtle film of all time) is open for bidding. The piece ends up in the hands of Bruce when he butchers the winning bidder (Malin Barr), and is the first thing noticed by his potential next victim, Meredith (Sarah Lind), when she arrives at his remote cabin for what should be a romantic weekend.

a wounded fawn review

A couple of clunkily written scenes told us earlier us that Meredith has only just gotten over the abusive relationship she escaped from three years earlier and that Bruce is the first man she's dated since then. It's a little hard to swallow that given her past experiences, Meredith would head off to a remote cabin with a man she barely knows. If you can brush aside this improbability, the next 40 minutes or so of A Wounded Fawn are filled with well sustained tension and dread. Lind does a fine job of portraying the increasing discomfort Meredith feels in the company of Bruce, who seems to be trying a little too hard to come off as a nice guy. Various sounds and visions of a woman on Bruce's porch freak Meredith out even further, but Bruce dismisses these incidents as products of her imagination as she tries to convince him to take her back to the city.

Midway through the film there's a twist that sees A Wounded Fawn morph into a very different film. After centring the first half on Meredith and effectively making us root for her to get the hell away from Bruce, Stevens attempts to pull off another move from the Psycho playbook by subsequently positing Bruce as the central figure. It simply doesn't work because while Norman Bates may have been guilty of a crime as bad as those of Bruce, Hitchcock's masterful direction and Anthony Perkins' performance put the viewer through something approaching Stockholm Syndrome, making us relate to a man who has just brutally murdered a woman. Bruce, on the other hand, is just plain unlikeable, and it's impossible to feel any sort of empathy for him as he pleads his case against the supernatural forces serving as judge, jury and executioner in an impromptu trial.

a wounded fawn review

It's in this period of the film that Bruce's name and his denim shirt click as being specifically chosen – Stevens turns the second half of his film into a play on Evil Dead II, with Bruce battling demons in and around the cabin. It's a clever idea, and the presumably 16mm photography really adds to the effect along with Ruben's rubber faced, Bruce Campbell-esque performance, but it's not played for laughs and it's too silly and heavy-handed to take seriously. After a tense first half grounded in real-life fears, A Wounded Fawn becomes a tedious supernatural horror desperate to hammer home a point it made far more effectively in its earlier scenes.

A Wounded Fawn is on Shudder from December 1st.

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