It’s that spooky time of the year, and Hulu is back with their Huluween programming. In addition Into the Dark‘s latest episode, the streaming platform has also added some festival darlings to their list of Halloween spooks including Little Monsters and Wounds. The latter of these comes out later this week and brings forth some disturbing body horror for fans to squirm to.
When New Orleans bartender Will (Armie Hammer) brings home a cellphone that was left at his bar, disturbing and mysterious things begin to happen. Wounds is psychological and bodily horror from Babak Anvari based on the novella The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud. Truthfully, Wounds makes me itch. It is a tough watch because early on the film uses bugs, specifically roaches, to show when things are off. I’m not scared of bugs, well, everything except roaches. They scare me and like one of the characters says at the beginning of Wounds, where there is one, there are thousands in the walls.
But while the roaches are a piece, the phone is the center. After bringing the phone home, Will messages one of the college students to pick it up at the bar he works. But, while the phone is in his possession he starts to receive weird messages sent to the phone’s owner. Messages explaining being stalked, pictures of bloodied teeth, and ultimately ominous glimpses into what awaits him.
There is a quality to Wounds that relies on jump scares, but by delivering them through the phone it allows you a detachment from them that makes them feel less like cheap thrills and more like real scares. That said, the fear in the film comes from watching Will lose himself, as roaches swarm him, loud ringing stuns him, and he begins to question reality.
I’m unsure if the fear will work on those unafraid of the creepy-crawly hissing cockroaches or gore, as Will’s descent relies heavily on them. Outside of that, the wounds in the film are disgustingly real. From Will visiting his cut-up friend to the ones that begin to appear throughout the film, it all hurts to watch and made me squirm. While the dialogue is rough, the bodily mutilation is rougher which, for some reason makes the film more immersive to watch, even as you want to look away. This is where Wounds is at its peak, in showing bodily injury and death.
The largest issue the film suffers from is the lack of common sense despite the characters, mainly Dakota Johnson‘s Carrie, Will’s girlfriend, acknowledgment of danger and knowing the correct response. But while Carrie is the smartest in the room, instructing Will to go to the police, Johnson’s performance struggled when tasked with emoting. One of the most important parts of horror is building a bed of empathy that connects you to the characters and asks you to feel what they feel and fear for them. This is ironic given the critique that Johnson’s Carrie throws to Will, “You’re just a body.”
But sadly, Johnson’s voice sounds the same whether she’s scared, angry, or otherwise, she’s soft and monotonous which is extremely noticeable against Hammer’s very emotional performance. He is loud, he is angry, and as he’s losing his mind, he’s scared. All of which come across but overshadow those in scenes with him. Even with his emotional connection to the scenes, Will is also just not a likable guy and Hammer goes to no length’s to make him that way.
Truthfully, the inclusion of the “will he cheat or won’t he cheat” dynamic with Zazie Beetz‘s Alicia adds a dynamic that makes it easy to root against him, especially when he continues to pressure her into being with him despite both being in relationships. Will is cringy, which makes what happens to him almost earned. His insecurities, his selfishness, its at the heart of everything, fueling his actions before and after the phone enters his life.
All that being said, Wounds reaches into the supernatural to define Will’s madness and the opening of wounds on his body and as it explores the evil that has entered his life and his home. Wounds doesn’t fit neatly into one subgenre, it’s psychological yes, but the supernatural elements begin to take the focus of the film, more The Ring and less Bug. While this isn’t horrible, it does cause a break in tone.
That being said, it finds its footing in the last act as the insanity bursts forth. When Wounds ended, I wasn’t sure what I had just watched. It’ll take some time for me to figure out if that’s a good thing or not. You will want to grab a can of bug spray on your next trip to the grocery store though.
Wounds is available exclusively on Hulu on October 18th.
When Wounds ended, I wasn’t sure what I had just watched. It’ll take some time for me to figure out if that’s a good thing or not. You will want to grab a can of bug spray on your next trip to the grocery store though.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.