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  Wounds Phone Freak
Year: 2019
Director: Babak Anvari
Stars: Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, Zazie Beetz, Brad William Henke, Karl Glusman, Kerry Cahill, Terence Roseman, Creek Wilson, Lawrence Turner, Christin Rankins, Ben Sanders, Alexander Biglane, Luke Hawx, Jim Klock, Martin Bats Bradford, Matthew Underwood
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Will (Armie Hammer) is a bartender in this college town, having dropped out of a course a few years ago and resigned himself to the wages available from serving drinks, though he is not averse to helping himself to the product. Tonight he is chatting with Alicia (Zazie Beetz) who is there with her boyfriend Jeffrey (Karl Glusman), though Will is harbouring a crush on her he would not admit to himself when he is already living with Carrie (Dakota Johnson). However, there is a problem when a fight breaks out and the frequently drunk Eric (Brad William Henke) is seriously injured in his face - this sends the possibly underage students there packing, but someone has left a phone behind...

Wounds was an adaptation of a Nathan Ballingrud novella from writer and director Babak Anvari, a much anticipated (in some quarters) follow-up to his feature debut Under the Shadow which had become quite the cult horror thanks to an unusual location and his sure hand on the weirdness. He attempted the same disorienting levels of the strange with this, and advance word could have been better, which presumably rather than give it a wide release in theatres, or even arthouse engagements, after a few prestigious festival dates (Sundance, Cannes, LFF) it was snapped up by Netflix where unfortunately it was not only overlooked, but berated by those who gave it a go.

Not everyone was so down on this, as there was a hardy few who recognised that Anvari was trying much the same hallucinatory stylings as he had before, only with a more prosaic American setting rather than the comparatively alien Middle Eastern one. Maybe because horror movies set in North America are ten a penny, there was not enough to set this one apart from its contemporaries, and the far more famous cast members both spoke to the effectiveness of the previous effort in that higher profile folks wanted to work with him, and a drawback when, if you had seen movies and TV this lot had been in already, the element of surprise was missing had they otherwise been newcomers.

With Wounds, it was clear the director had enjoyed a few David Cronenberg movies since this unfolded like Videodrome only with the televisions updated to smartphones. When Will takes the device he has found home, he gets a few messages on it from a panicked individual - or it may be someone playing a prank, as he suspects - and after unlocking it finds things are more disturbing than he expected. Someone is calling him and inviting him to investigate further, which turns out to be the cue for Will's predictable descent into madness as he discovers weird, gory and supposedly real video clips on the phone that his mind cannot cope with. Then Carrie gets involved, dragged into the insanity in a manner that lays bare problems the couple never realised they had, or perhaps the mysterious cult behind this have orchestrated the whole situation.

The gimmick was, this shadowy group have dedicated themselves to divining another world through the titular wounds, though more than that the film keeps to itself, leaving the viewer to try and work out as much or as little as they cared to. There were themes here, as Anvari was comparing phone addiction with alcoholism judging by how often drinkers were shown with their devices (or someone else's devices) in their hands, and what could best be described as the sheer Hell of accessibility was the other major point of rumination. Had Will been able to resist the lure of even the worst phone messages possible (including an alarming call that beams a signal right into his brain, to all intents and purposes) then he would not have fallen apart; by the end his worst traits have been intensified to render him "one of them". With cockroaches, footage of an endless tunnel, and that link to electronics variously employed for disquiet, there were good things here, but it did not pull together to serve up anything as original as it needed to be. Yet not a disaster by any means.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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