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WOUNDS (2019)

Directed by Babak Anvari
Written by Babak Anvari (screenplay), based on the novella “The Visible Filth” Nathan Ballingrud
Starring Armie Hammer, Zazie Beetz, Dakota Johnson, Karl Glusman, Christin Rankins, Brad William Henke, Ben Sanders, Alexander Biglane, Matthew Underwood, Luke Hawx, Kerry Cahill, Terence Rosemore, Jim Klock, Martin Bats Bradford, Creek Wilson, Lawrence Turner

Ever been stuck in a dead end job or a relationship that’s going nowhere? Everyone has at some point in their lives. That’s where Armie Hammer’s Will is in his life. And while WOUNDS is a creepy film about curses, cockroaches, and other dimensional portals, it is also a pretty strong metaphor about someone stuck in a rut and desperately trying to get out.

During a typical night at his bar, bartender Will (Hammer) helps break up a bar fight and finds a phone left by a group of underage kids he let into the bar. Forgetting to leave it at the bar, Will begins getting messages on the phone along with disturbing photographs of severed heads and spit out teeth. His girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) urges him to turn the phone into the cops, but a series of events makes him lose the phone. Still, a curse seems to adhere to Will and his life begins to swirl out of control around him when he is plagued with hallucinations, blackouts, and texts which seem to be threatening Carrie. With the world crumbling around him, Will finds himself overwhelmed with real life addictions as well as metaphysical threats from what seems to be a dark other dimension.

Having done my time as a bartender, I know how easily one’s life can go swirling down the drain as there is constant temptations of addictive substances and toxic people. I’m not saying everyone in the service industry suffers from this, but the temptation is always there. What this film does is flesh out these more negative aspects of bar industry work and use them to barrage Will from all sides. Even before he stumbles on this curse, Will is stuck in this world and seems perfectly fine with it, despite the fact that it is holding him back. On top of everything, the relationship he has with Carrie is less than ideal as both of them seem to be untrustworthy of one another. When the curse hits, it only amplifies the problems, but it also forces Will to get out of his rut and act. It forces him to make decisions and actually care for those around him. Had the curse not showed up, he would have been in the same situation. So while Will is in a sort of hell by the end of the film, at least it’s not the monotonous, Groundhog Day loop from hell he seems to be in at the beginning.

My biggest complaint is that there is very little by way of a resolution to WOUNDS. There is the thematic conclusion that is reached that I explained above, but the film definitely leaves many questions unanswered by the film’s end. While there are hints as to what is behind the horrific moments of cockroaches, weird wounds, and otherworldly tunnels, we are given no concrete answers. The vague ending is gross and twisted, but it is going to leave a lot of people pissed at the obtuseness of it all. While I don’t need every I dotted and T crossed, even I was a little frustrated with the way it all wraps up. A little more details as to what the curse is about, what this other world is made of, and what the hell is going on with all of the cockroaches would have been grand.

The acting is good. Hammer, Johnson, and Beetz are all top tier and are extremely watchable in these roles despite the fact that all three are pretty toxic in their own ways. There’s a point that this film moves at a bit of a monotonous pace. It really wants us to experience how repetitious Will’s life is. Still, despite some absolutely skin-crawlingly creepy scenes of wounds and roaches, this is a slow burner for a patient audience who won’t get pissed with ambiguous finales. WOUNDS is effectively gory and thematically weighty. It is much more cerebral than most horror and I appreciate it for that. But if you like more flash and bang with your scares, this one might not be for you.