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“A Wounded Fawn” stuns with sinister surrealism — a disorienting but dazzling descent into the heart of wickedness.

A Wounded Fawn

When it comes to setting a goal and achieving it – to winning that prize – a good plan would seem customarily important to have in place. Without a good plan, almost anything that can go wrong, as they say, will. Without it, one might as well leave life up to Fate or some other higher power, even leave it up to the subconscious.

And sometimes, the very conflict concerns mankind’s preparedness and an otherworldly power with intentions of its own. That conflict sits aggressively at the center of A Wounded Fawn, an unsettling examination of the fragile mind, now streaming on Shudder.

The film is a deft piece of cinematic manipulation, keeping its characters and plot as unbalanced as the audience brave enough to watch this twisted narrative unfold.

Directed by Travis Stevens, A Wounded Fawn marks the director’s third feature and tells the story of Meredith Tanning (Sarah Lind), who has decided to finally return to the world of dating after a particularly abusive three-year relationship. Not too much could have changed in her absence since she last put herself out there. But little does Meredith know that what’s in store for her transcends any experience she may have discovered on

Whisked away to a romantic, isolated getaway by Bruce (Josh Ruben), Meredith is entirely unaware that her date is a serial killer who has targeted her as his latest trophy.

It would appear that despite his impressive record, Bruce sees the remote location as part of a perfect plan as well. But the couple’s destination for the weekend will prove to be a playground for a sinister game of seduction that will test them both as they come face to face with the darkness that hides within Bruce’s unstable heart and mind.

With A Wounded Fawn, Stevens once more establishes himself as a formidable addition to the ranks of independent film directors working in the horror industry today.

He resuscitated the saturated narratives of the haunted house with Girl on the Third Floor (2019), aided in no small part by the atmosphere that he skillfully manipulated throughout the film and the performances delivered by his compelling cast.

And in 2021, Stevens creatively blended traditional vampire mythology with a sensibility for domestic repression and unbridled feminism in Jakob’s Wife.

If reinventing the expectations for particular genre films appears to be the director’s calling card, Stevens certainly sets the bar high again with this film, a hauntingly surreal exploration of psychosis and toxic masculinity.

That sense of man’s predatorial presence in the world is the near-one-man show of Ruben’s performance, which resembles a perfect tightrope walk throughout the first act of the film.

Outwardly charming and unassuming, Ruben’s Bruce is irresistible as an auction agent bidding on rare art at local galleries. There, he toes the line in getting precisely what his client needs, sacrificing as much as he can in order to satisfy his host. But beneath his cool veneer, Bruce also teeters on a particular precipice – hands shaking, eyes darting – as he inwardly struggles to sublimate the need to kill that consistently percolates within him.

And he’s finding it more and more difficult to smother that compulsion that he must also satisfy as a killer.

Ruben methodically transforms over the course of the film, more and more losing control over his faculties, and it’s a calculated move from start to finish.

That which could have too quickly devolved into melodrama or hilarity is kept strictly under control by Ruben for most of the picture.

Meanwhile, Lind serves during this time as the conduit through which the audience will participate in this nightmare.

Having already survived one tumultuous relationship, she is at all times cautious until she can no longer be patient with her discomfort, with the danger lurking around her. Her own transformation – like Bruce’s – is precise in its development, mostly due to the film’s screenplay penned by Nathan Faudree and Stevens himself.

Behind the camera, cinematographer Ksusha Genenfeld heightens that dread by frequently serving as the mind’s eye as Meredith – and the audience – moves circuitously deeper into Bruce’s remote house of horrors. Meanwhile, sound designer Vaaal’s discordant score of metallic, ambient groans and shrieks never fail to disrupt the viewer’s equilibrium as the film’s dread intensifies.

Each of these elements operates in tandem to create an unnerving crescendo of unease to abject terror, like the singing Chorus of Greek theater that announces to the audience what unfolds before their very eyes.

Yet none of this is to suggest that A Wounded Fawn never loses sight of itself in the process of orchestrating the fates of these characters.

The film – inspired as it is by surrealist art and the Greek myth – remains possessed with a certain lack of explanation.

This sometimes makes it feel as if the movie’s surrealism is quite simply for the sake of being surreal.

If there are literary or mythological references here that should have been more obvious to the viewer, they were too fleeting or elusive to allow the film a conclusive comment about madness and the muses that inspired this story. This is despite the fact that the production does its best in course correcting itself in the end in an effort to make a darkly justified comment on misogyny.

And perhaps it’s that mythological vertigo that adds to the unsettling nature of the film as a whole.

Perhaps most of us aren’t meant to comprehend the schism that is both literally and figuratively on display in the film, as foreign as it appears to the viewer at all times, as comprehensible as a fever dream.

Greek myth, after all, relied on similar flourishes as their narratives moved toward their inevitable conclusions in order to provide the audience with a sense of bloodied, exhausted catharsis …

… as if it was always part of the plan.

A Wounded Fawn is now streaming now on Shudder.
Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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