Netflix's Wounds Review
With a disconcerting atmosphere and committed performances, it's just a shame that Wounds doesn't ever really develop its effectively creepy 'cursed phone' premise.Netflix certainly likes a good high concept premise; something to run with. However, it often picks poorly when it comes to something beyond the opening gambit, recently turning a Stephen King short story into an unnecessarily protracted affair in In the Tall Grass, and doing much the same here with a source novella, The Visible Filth, which affords an interesting idea and some disturbing scenes, but not enough meat to make for a feature film.
An interesting idea and some disturbing scenes, but not enough meat to make for a feature filmThe story has Armie Hammer's (The Man from UNCLE) bartender Will breaking up a particularly nasty and violent bar fight, and inadvertently taking home somebody else's phone in the process, to a suspicious but otherwise disinterested girlfriend, Carrie (Dakota Johnson - Suspiria), whilst secretly pining for ex-flame Alicia (Zazie Beetz - Deadpool 2) who still frequents Will's bar, only with her new and desperately bland beau. The love triangle becomes the least of his problems when Will starts receiving strange messages on the phone, soon finding himself being followed, and seeing things that may not be there.
Wounds has a strong cast. Hammer is happy to be swept up in the atmospheric horror, often like a distinctly lite Netflix version of Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart, but unflinching nonetheless as he sweats and hallucinates his way through an increasingly scary waking nightmare. Johnson has no idea how to play it, and is given precious little to do other than in one creepy moment that simply goes nowhere. If the idea behind her character was to be as disinterested as possible then that certainly comes across, but it's hard not to feel like it's the actress' real attitude towards the film itself that is shining through here. Conversely, Zazie Beetz is just as game as Hammer, even though her character too hasn't got much purpose. Unfortunately, neither actress particularly gels with Hammer, who increasingly comes across as a creepy stalker rather than someone either woman has shared chemistry with, past or present, but that doesn't kill the story and, indeed, it's nice that they at least made some effort when it comes to the characters this time around.
Netflix appears to have a handle on how to pitch a decent idea for a story; now if only they could figure out how to end one
The biggest problem with Wounds is that it simply goes nowhere. At some point you expect the characters themselves to start to realise the situation that they are in - just like in The Ring - even if that realisation does not always save them. Here they slow-burn through a succession of creepy occurrences but save what could have been an opening third act reveal for the very closing shot, giving the impression that this was a short story which was simply padded out in the middle, rather than organically developed into a more substantial feature length whole. It's a shame because Wounds does have some atmosphere, though wasting its New Orleans setting a bit (it could have been filmed anywhere in a bar and nearby house at night), but using intermittent flash images and disturbing inexplicable events to keep you on edge, even if it ultimately doesn't know what to do with that unease. Netflix appears to have a handle on how to pitch a decent idea for a story; now if only they could figure out how to end one.
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