(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The MovieWounds

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: Armie Hammer is an underachieving New Orleans bartender who finds an abandoned phone in the aftermath of a barroom brawl. His curiosity gets the better of him, he manages to get access to the images stored on it, and…well, that turns out to be a major mistake since it invites him into a world of horror that proves increasingly impossible to define. The more he realizes he’s in danger, the less he understands what’s happening to him. It’s a terrifying film. And it doesn’t care about supplying you with a single damn answer.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: H.P Lovecraft has become a catchphrase, a word we throw around to refer to slimy tentacled monsters from beyond the cosmos. But if you return to Lovecraft’s (admittedly dated and often socially reprehensible!) original work, you find a vital cornerstone of classic “weird fiction.” Lovecraft (and Arthur Machen and Robert Bloch and everyone else in that extended family) didn’t write tales of terror about slimy tentacled monsters from beyond the cosmos – they wrote stories about the sheer terror of learning you shared an existence with slimy tentacled monsters from beyond the cosmos. While Wounds is not based on an old weird tale, it is based on a Nathan Ballingrud novella that owes its structure to the classics. Wounds is about the horror of knowing too much and being powerless to do anything about it.

I’m not going to promise that Wounds features slimy tentacled monsters from beyond the cosmos (although it does lean really hard into some intense horror), but I will promise that it will scratch that old school horror short story itch you may not know you have. I’d put it in the same camp as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List – low-key horror tales that better emulate a specific kind of horror tale more than the more overt imitators.

I’m not sure if filmmaker Babak Anvari has old school weird fiction on his mind when he wrote and directed Wounds, but he’s an unlikely but perfect fit for the mold. His previous film, the creepy and politically charged Under the Shadow, suggested that he had a future making bold, deliberately withholding horror cinema that frustrates and fascinates, but Wounds resonates in a different way. Under the Shadow is a film about a specific time and place (’80s Iran), but Wounds, despite its New Orleans setting, is about anywhere. It’s about finding something evil and inexplicable wedged in the crevices of the mundane. It’s about the cracks of your reality widening just enough to send the foundations of your existence tumbling to the ground.

Like many horror movies, Wounds is about a character searching for answers. But what if, the movie asks, the answers are impossible to find? And what if finding them is so much worse than living in denial?

Look, I get it. A lot of you reading this may think “Well, this doesn’t sound like much fun at all!” And you’re right. Wounds isn’t a fun movie. Anyone hoping for a good time will be miserable throughout. The ending will infuriate many. The lack of concrete answers will leave most angry, thinking that the film wasted their time. And honestly, I refuse to argue with a reaction like that.

Wounds exposes the difference between a true weird fiction story and a Cthulhu Pop! figure. The former is unsettling and demands to plant itself in your imagination, where it can fester and give you the creeps for weeks on end as you revisit it in your thoughts and nightmares. The latter is something cute and fun and allows you to engage with a genre that is about far more than its public perception. Wounds is anti-fun horror and I could not love it more.

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