Director: Babak Anvari
Writer: Babak Anvari
Cast: Armie Hammer, Zazie Beetz, Dakota Johnson, Brad William Henke
Producers: Babak Anvari, Christopher Kopp, Lucan Toh
Cinematography: Kit Fraser
Editor: Chris Barwell
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 94mins
What’s the story: Bartender Will (Hammer) watches his world implode when he discovers horrific images on a mysterious mobile phone.
What’s the verdict: Those with a fear of cockroaches, mobile phones or millennials will embark upon an emotional rollercoaster with Wounds.
Babak Anvari’s second film continues the reality ripping supernatural shocks of his debut, Under the Shadow. But, rather than bombs falling on Iran disrupting the cosmic order, here it is a more everyday weapon, the iPhone.
Armie Hammer is superb as Will, a college dropout wasting his potential as a bartender at New Orleans dive joint Rosie’s. Handsome and self-assured, he’s also slowly alienating girlfriend Carrie (Johnson).
After a bloody brawl at Rosie’s involving bruiser pal Eric (Henke), Will finds a mobile phone left by fleeing students. When he discovers pictures on the phone seemingly depicting a gruesome murder, reality begins to rebel. He is taunted by the students who dropped the phone and the police prove similarly unhelpful.
Has a malevolent force been unleashed or is guilt for past transgressions coming home to roost?
Based on Nathan Ballingrud’s novella The Visible Filth, Wounds gets deep n’ dirty in one man’s ever-collapsing world. Anvari takes Hammer, a perfect specimen if ever there was one, and makes him sweatier and smaller the further he delves into the mystery.
Testament to Anvari’s claustrophobic direction and Hammer’s performance is that they can base their film around a shitty waste of potential like Will and retain audience engagement.
Here they are helped by a strong supporting cast playing characters increasingly distancing themselves from the good-time-guy. Dakota Johnson injects the girlfriend role with real agency, distrustful of Will due to past wrongs and more than just a distressed damsel to drop into chilling suspense set-pieces.
Zazie Beetz is similarly impressive as Will’s regular drinking buddy and has a more provocative relationship to play with here than anything served to her in Joker.
Like Under the Shadow, an aggressive sound mix keeps paranoia levels high. Matching the unnerving soundscape is Anvari’s knack for disturbing visuals; Wounds is a film of portals to other sides, be it the mysterious tunnel appearing on Carrie’s laptop or the gaping hole in Eric’s face following that bar brawl. The answer to what is plaguing Will may be found in either… the only certainty is a cockroach is a bad omen, and this is a film replete with roaches.
Wounds’ tight narrative has the feel of a short story, as does an ending that provides a degree of closure but leaves viewers to reach their own conclusions based on clues provided.
Which may leave some saying this is Anvari treading water after Under the Shadow. But, for us it is further evidence the writer/director is one of the most interesting fearmongers currently creating nightmares.