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Soft & Quiet, The Menu, Sator, Hypochonriac, The Brood, and A Wounded Fawn
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 209
We’ve got our usual lineup of four movies and a short film this week. We’ll start with “Soft & Quiet” and “The Menu,” a couple of shockers from this year. Then we’ll pop back to 2019 and watch the woodsy “Sator.” We’ll finish up with the supernatural “A Wounded Fawn.”
As a bonus this week, we’ll look at :
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• “The Brood” (1979)
• “Hypochondriac” (2022)
Four years ago this week...
Four YEARS AGO this week, on episode 4, we looked at “Darkness Falls” (2003) and “Hereditary” (2018).
Listen to that old episode here: https://www.horrorguys.com/hg004/.
Sixteenth Issue of Horror Bulletin now available
The newest issue of Horror Bulletin Monthly, our monthly compilation of all our reviews, is out now. This includes all the bonus content and is available as both a print book and an ebook. If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you!
• Buy from Amazon: Amazon.com
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Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
• Tales to Make You Shiver, Volumes 1 and 2
Here. We. Go!
The Brood (1979)
• Directed by David Cronenberg
• Written by David Cronenberg
• Stars Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Body horror and dangerous children. It’s a little dated, but it’s Cronenberg, so it’s still pretty good and pretty weird.
Dr. Hal Raglan chides Mike for not looking him in the eyes. It’s a performance treatment of Raglan being hostile to a patient. There are many people watching the demonstration. The patient has sores all over his body from his mental anguish. He’s really brutal on the guy, but it gets results.
Frank Carveth is in the audience, and he goes upstairs to find his daughter Candy who was visiting his ex-wife Nola - one of the patients there. They go home and while he gives his daughter a bath, he notices the same kind of wounds on her back that the man had. He goes to see Hal Raglan and insists on seeing Nola. Frank thinks Nola abused her, scratching and biting their daughter. Hal denies it. They argue with Hal refusing to let him see her, and Frank leaves.
Frank goes to his lawyer about Raglan; he doesn’t believe in Psychoplasmics and wants it all stopped. The lawyer says that’s not going to happen.
Hal and Nola have a session, where he pretends that he’s Candy, and she denies hurting her daughter. Meanwhile, Candy is at Grandma Julianna’s house, and stuff in the kitchen starts flying everywhere. A tiny person in a red hoodie beats Grandma to death with a meat tenderizer. Candy goes into the kitchen a bit later and finds the body.
The police inspector tells Frank that his mother-in-law is dead, and tells him that Candy didn’t see anything. The police psychologist thinks she did see something and may experience trauma in the future.
Raglan and Nola have another session where he pretends to be her father; Nola says her father didn’t protect her from her abusive mother.
Barton Kelly, Nola’s father, arrives in town. He’s Julianna’s ex-husband, here for her funeral.
Frank goes to see Mr. Hartog, who is in the process of suing Hal; Frank wants to know more about that. Hartog has a nasty growth on his chin- lymphosarcoma that he says was caused by Psychoplasmics. Frank thinks he’s a flake.
Barton talks to Hal; Hal doesn’t want to tell Nola about her mother’s death. Barton goes to Julianna’s house and gets drunk. The little red person crawls out from under the bed and beats him to death with a paperweight. Frank shows up and sees the little guy, but it gets away from him. Then it attacks Frank, but it falls down dead. It’s some kind of deformed child.
The coroner details the whole thing to Frank and the police inspector. It has no navel or sexual organs. It died because it had a sack full of nutrients that it used up. It was never really born the way humans are born. When he gets home, Candy says she had a nightmare.
Frank goes to see Hartog and Michael, the guy from the beginning. Mike is jealous of Nola and says she’s the queen bee of the whole therapy operation. Raglan’s only interested in her now.
Nola phones Frank and gets Candy’s teacher on the phone, who is just there being supportive and watching Candy, but Nola assumes there’s hanky-panky going on.
Meanwhile, Ragland has dismissed all his patients and, with a gun in his pocket, goes out to a locked-up barn on the grounds.
Two more of those weird children show up at Candy’s kindergarten class and lead her outside. Then they beat the teacher to death with hammers— in front of all the kids. Frank rushes in, but Candy is long gone. We see the two deformed kids leading her away.
Nola wakes up from a “wonderful dream” and tells it to Hal. She says she doesn’t feel threatened by Candy’s teacher anymore. Mike comes to Frank and tells him about the kids in the workshed. Wait— what? Frank jumps in the car and zooms out to the clinic.
Frank arrives at the same barn where we saw Hal earlier. He confronts Hal. Hal admits that the weird children are the children of Nola’s rage. Her anger has manifested into murderous children that kill those she’s angry with. Hal wants Frank to apologize to Nola and pretend that he wants her back. That will make “The Brood” mellow out while Hal goes inside and rescues Candy from them.
Frank talks to Nola while Hal checks out the brood’s lair. Nola lifts up her dress and shows Frank the things growing out of her. She tears open one “pod” and pulls out a new baby creature, which she then licks clean. Frank is repulsed, which angers Nola.
As she gets angry, the monsters upstairs wake up and start getting aggressive with Hal. There are a bunch of them! Candy watches as the Brood tears Hal apart. “I’d kill Candace before I let you take them,” Nola screams. The Brood upstairs turns toward Candy. Candy locks them inside and screams.
Frank strangles Nola and the Brood all fall over dead. He finds Candy upstairs mostly in shock— Guess she’s gonna need therapy now! The two get in the car and drive home. We see that Candy’s got little bumps growing on her arm. She’s got the power too!
Raglan’s method of psychotherapy is ridiculous. We never see him hypnotize anyone, so the patients must be role-playing with him, but the results are way too excessive to be realistic.
David Cronenberg shows us that even forty-some years ago, he was obsessed with body horror and weird medicine.
This may have been innovative and unique in the 70s, but it’s fairly predictable and even kinda boring today.
• Directed by Addison Heimann
• Written by Addison Heimann
• Stars Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Madeline Zima
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
• Trailer: •
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The acting and direction are excellent, making for a very entertaining movie. But it’s pushing it to call it horror overall. It’s much more of a psychological drama, with horrible things happening to a character that we grow to root for.
Will wakes up to the sound of glass breaking. “Pack your bag; we’re leaving tonight!” says his mother. She’s unhinged and says the little boy is in collusion with “Them.” She says it's all going to be OK and then starts to strangle him. She stops halfway through and sings to him instead.
In the morning, she’s very, very sorry, and Will is wearing a turtleneck to cover the bruises. That afternoon, Will gets a text that his mother is at the mental hospital. His father tells him to stay out of the kitchen. When Will goes to the kitchen, he finds a bloody mess in there.
Eighteen years later, Will is a professional potter. He finds Sasha crying in the closet at work. He raps and beatboxes and talks her back into calmness. He goes home to Luke, his boyfriend of eight months. Will tells Luke that his mother is dead, but we saw a few minutes earlier that he ignored a phone call from her. He opens a box and finds a tape from his mother. She says to not trust Luke.
Blossom is the boss at the pottery studio, and she leaves Will in charge more often than he’d like. He gets hurt at work and hurts his hands. Luke says something at dinner that triggers a flashback in Will. Mom calls and leaves a voicemail that says dating Luke is not in his best interest.
Will starts having trouble with his hands locking up. He flashes back to more abuse, including a man in a wolf mask. He faints at work. He starts Googling his symptoms and getting all kinds of terrible self-diagnoses. The nurse practitioner says it’s probably neuropathy or stress, and it’ll go away in a week or so. Nothing serious at all. When he gets home, there’s another tape in a crazy package from Mom.
Will finally tells of his past with his mother to Luke. They drive to Sasha’s isolated cabin for the weekend to get away from everything. They take some mushrooms and get really confused. While he’s high, the NP calls back and says he has a vitamin D deficiency, which he will call in a prescription for. Will then hallucinates lions and scary stuff.
“There’s something really wrong with me,” he says as he runs through the woods and hallucinates wolves. Hours later, he hallucinates a werewolf and ends up breaking his arm. Luke thinks it’s all an act to get out of meeting Luke’s mother at brunch.
At the doctor’s the next day, he sees a huge scratch on his back from where the werewolf clawed him. The doctor doesn’t see it. This doctor also thinks the only thing that’s wrong is stress. The doctor tells him to take a week off work, but Blossom threatens to fire him.
He stays at work and hears someone locked inside the kiln. It’s on, so he knows there can’t be anyone in there, but he looks anyway. He reaches inside and gets badly burned.
Luke says that Will’s mother has emailed him, and Will decides that it’s time to break up. “If we keep going, I’ll destroy you,” Will warns. Will leaves and goes to stay at his dad’s house, a mansion. Dad’s support is questionable at best. He threatens to put Will in the mental hospital just like his mother.
He finally goes to see a psychiatrist. He wants her to order an MRI; he just wants it all to stop. “I need to know if it isn’t real. And if it isn’t, I’m seeing a wolf.” She prescribes antipsychotics. The MRI comes back clear with no problems.
He goes to his mother’s house and mopes around for too long. In the study, we see that she’s been stalking Luke. She left him a video of her arguing with her father and then a whole history lesson of her crazy antics. Including putting rat poison in the husband’s dinner.
When the video’s over, Will finds himself sitting next to the wolf man. The glowing-eyed wolf recreates the pottery scene from “Ghost” with Will– it’s messed up. Will laughs maniacally as the clay turns into blood.
The doctor says Will needs someone to take care of him, so he calls Luke. They kiss and make up. Halfway through sex, Luke turns into the werewolf. No– that was a hallucination. Luke then sings the same song Will’s mother used to sing. He punches Luke in the face several times. Then he finds that Luke isn’t even there.
Will then saws into his arm with a big knife. He wakes up with his mother in the room. She made coffee for him. “I came to take care of you until the end.” He gets angry and strangles her this time. The werewolf shows him how to slit his wrist, but he stabs the werewolf instead. He goes crying back to Luke again.
Will wakes up in the mental hospital, sharing a room with the werewolf. Dr. Miller comes in, and she says that he didn’t kill his mom. She was there about a half hour ago, and she was very upset. We get a physical therapy montage as Will’s arms recover.
Will sits outside with Luke on one side and the wolf on the other. Yep, he’s crazy.
We assumed early on that Will’s mother had been dead a long time and that this was all some kind of psychotic break. Later, we started to wonder if Luke was real either. It’s not a matter if he’s crazy or not, it’s more a matter of “How bad is he?” And how much did his mother damage him while growing up? At no point do we see anyone other than Will interacting with any of the other characters. How many of them are real? We’re never really sure.
The acting is very good all around, but it’s a bit slow– much more psychological drama than horror. Even with the werewolf and the gore, it doesn’t really feel like a horror film to me, since we know it’s not real.
It was entertaining, but it’s barely a horror film.
Soft & Quiet (2022)
• Directed by Beth De Araujo
• Written by Beth De Araujo
• Stars Stefanie Estes, Olivia Luccardi, Dana Millican
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
• Trailer: •
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one is skillfully done as one continuous take in real time. It really makes it interesting, and it’s not a typical horror film. Things start out calmly and normal and go off the rails worse and worse as it goes along. It’s an uncomfortable watch, but it’s worth sticking with it to see where things end up.
Emily takes a frantic pregnancy test and soon ends up crying. Is she or isn’t she? We’re not sure. She leaves the restroom and heads back inside the school.
She steps outside again to talk to Brian, whose mother is late picking him up from school. She’s written a children’s book, and she lets him read it. The janitor goes into the classroom, and Emily tells little Brian to go inside and tell the Hispanic janitor not to mop until the classroom is empty. (Why couldn’t she do this herself? Also, the classroom wasempty at that point.)
As he goes inside to do Emily’s dirty work, Brian’s mother shows up and asks what he’s doing. Emily lies and says Brian almost slipped and hurt himself, which he didn’t. She says she’s trying to get Brian to be more assertive; Brian’s mom is grateful for the lesson. Brian and his mother go home.
Emily walks down a path carrying a pie for some friends. She declines a collect call from Jeff, who is a prison inmate. Credits roll.
Another woman passes her on the trail. She says she’s meeting Kim; Emily is meeting Kim too, but she doesn’t know this woman, who is Leslie. They talk as they walk, and go upstairs into a church for their meeting.
Emily unveils her pie, which has a swastika carved into it. Kim hurriedly cuts up the pie and hands it around. Emily says they are there to “support each other through this multicultural warfare.” She says she wants a baby but is having trouble getting pregnant. She thinks this new club might be a higher purpose for her. “Daughters for Aryan Unity” is on the sign behind them.
Marjorie complains that she’d been working two years to become manager, but some Colombian girl got the job and she didn’t. The racism starts flying.
Alice goes next, and she’s inspired by being with like-minded people. “All lives matter!”
Jessica says he’s a lifelong Klan and Stormfront member. “Multiculturalism doesn’t work.”
Kim just hates Jews and wants to use her journalism degree to help. She wants to start a newsletter.
Leslie goes last and tells about her time in prison. She kind of misses the structure of being there.
Emily adds stuff about feminism and sexuality and starts crying at the destruction of the normal family.
The pastor of the church they’re using comes in and asks Emily to leave. “Go right now, and I won’t report you,” he warns. The meeting breaks up, but Emily doesn’t say why.
Some of them agree to go to Emily’s house after the meeting. They stop at Kim’s grocery store for wine and snacks. Some brown people come in, and the store owner says they’re closed, which soon devolves into an argument and a fight. Kim knows one of them, whose name is Anne.
Emily’s husband Craig shows up at the end of the fight, and everyone’s crying because they’re the victims. Leslie and Marjorie want to follow the other women home and do something nasty to them. Craig shakes his head silently and warns Emily that she’s talking about committing a felony. She calls him a stupid fairy pussy. He decides to go along with it and suggests all the women leave their phones in the store so they can’t be tracked. He’s not so much into the white supremacist stuff, but he seems to know all about crime.
They stop at Anne’s house. Craig doesn’t like the layout of the place and says they probably won’t all get out unseen. The women are loud and obnoxious, not at all like burglars, but they break in and go through Anne’s stuff. They find Anne’s passport, but Craig comes in and says their five minutes are up. A car drives up, and he tells them all to hide.
Anne comes in and Craig grabs her. Kim has a gun, and Leslie threatens to kill Anne. Craig wants to leave, but Emily tells him to stop whining. He runs into the other girl, Lily, outside and grabs her too. “Please don’t make me hurt you,” he warns. He gets scared, or he’s just being smarter than the women, and storms off.
The five women don’t know what to do, but Leslie wants “to scare the shit out of them.” Marjorie agrees. Kim and Emily cry; this wasn’t supposed to happen. Emily agrees to scare them, clean up, and get out. They turn up some music and force the girls to drink booze and eat candy as they cry in terror. Lily stops breathing; she’s allergic to peanuts.
Lily dies, and Anne cries. The other girls freak out over what they’ve done. Emily blames this all on Leslie, and they argue. There is much screaming. Leslie smothers Anne with a pillow as the others clean up their fingerprints.
Emily comes up with a plan to dump the bodies in the lake and make it look like nothing happened. Emily continues to clean up as the others carry the bodies out to the van. It’s dark when they arrive at the boat dock, isolated and alone out in the woods.
Emily struggles by herself to get the little rowboat into the water as the others bring the bodies from the van. Leslie and Emily get in the boat as the others wait on the shore. They dump the tarp full of bodies overboard and row away. Soon after, Anne pops up to the surface; she wasn’t really dead.
Soccer moms and elementary school teachers are just the worst, aren’t they?
This is a whole different kind of horror. It starts off a little weird with the janitor thing, and then we see the pie. It just gets worse and worse from there. For a long while, I thought it would all be the woman talking in their meeting, but it went to all kinds of strange places after that.
It’s all done in one long unbroken take, in real time. I don’t know how many edits they really had, but it all looked like one shot. There’s no real soundtrack, and there’s lots of screaming. Still, it’s tense, and you have to keep with it to see how far out of control this can all go.
It’s all really good, and it’ll probably make you uncomfortable as well, so it’s a pretty awesome film.
The Menu (2022)
• Directed by Mark Mylod
• Written by Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
• Stars Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 47 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Course by course, this delicious movie unfolds. There’s lots of dark humor, social commentary, impotent rage, and outright horror. It’s got a strong cast and good direction, and it’s a winner.
Margot and Tyler talk about tonight. He tells her not to smoke, as that’ll ruin her palette for later. There will be less than a dozen people there, and it’s super-expensive. They take a boat to an island with several famous influencers and powerful people. Tyler is really, really into food, and Margot is fairly normal. He’s very uptight about the experience they are about to have and doing everything right.
Upon arrival, Elsa the hostess takes the group on a quick overview of Hawthorne Island. It’s all very pretentious. There’s a whole staff who live on the island, and they all live for cooking. “Chef holds himself to the highest standard, and so do we,” Elsa brags.
Everyone there knows all the guests’ names. Margot is there as a “replacement date” for Tyler, and the Chef looks at her with concern; she’s a change he wasn’t informed about. As they eat, we see that most of the guests are rich, pretentious snobs. Tyler tells Margot how he idolizes Chef.
Chef Julian Slowik introduces himself and explains how the evening will proceed. “Do not eat. Taste.” Tyler tears up listening to Chef’s beautiful speech. After a fancy seafood dish, they get the “breadless bread plate.” Tyler is a fanboy, and Margot is trying to understand it all. When Margot doesn’t touch her imaginary bread, Chef comes over and asks what the problem is.
An older couple keeps looking at Margot, she says Margot seems familiar, but the man insists they don’t know her. It’s obvious to us that he does know her. Chef tells a story about stabbing his father in the leg with kitchen scissors to defend his abused mother. Then they serve a chicken thigh with scissors stuck in it.
Next up are personalized tortillas with embarrassing, compromising, or insulting images of the guests on them.
Margot goes into the restroom for a smoke, and Chef follows her inside to ask what’s wrong with the food. “You shouldn’t be here tonight,” he says ominously.
For the fourth course, Chef introduces Jeremy, a failed chef who shoots himself in the head right in front of everyone. “It’s all part of the menu; it’s part of the show,” Chef says as they clean up the mess. Was it real, or was that fake? It looked real. Dinner gets a bit more tense at this point.
Mr. Leibrand, the old man, wants to leave, and some goons hold his hand down and cut off his finger. As the old man screams, Tyler enjoys his food. That was real; they all saw the finger on the floor. Though some still tell themselves and each other it’s all just a show.
Chef calls Margot to the kitchen and tells her, “We’re all going to die tonight,” and he wants to know if she wants to die with the clients or the staff. “It’s our side or theirs.” It soon becomes really obvious that they’re all prisoners there. Chef’s next speech attacks and explains a lot of what’s going on. He’s insane. He executes his main investor in front of everyone.
Chef calls Margot to his office to talk again. She says he’s right; she shouldn’t be here. He says she belongs on his side, with the “service workers.” She also… provides services. They talk about bad customers. He’s lost all desire and pleasure for cooking.
For the sixth course, Chef confesses to sexually harassing one of his subordinates, and she stabs him in the crotch. He tells the men that they have 45 seconds of a head start to run before they are hunted down. The women go inside to eat some more. Before long, all the men come marching back, thoroughly captured.
Chef openly confronts Tyler about bringing Margot instead of his original date, knowing full well that she would die. Chef says Tyler belongs in the kitchen because he knows so much about food - he should prove himself. He gives Tyler a chef’s jacket. Chef demands that Tyler cook with everyone watching. He does poorly with Chef mocking him the whole time. Then he whispers something in Tyler’s ear, and Tyler slinks off of the office to hang himself.
Chef assigns Margot to go get a barrel from the smokehouse because Elsa forgot. Is he helping her, or is this more humiliation? On the way back, Elsa attacks Margot, and they have a fight that Elsa loses badly. Margot takes a key from Elsa’s body and opens the mysterious silver door. There are photos there of when Chef was “Employee of the month” in his youth at a burger place. She also finds a radio and makes a call for help.
A boat soon arrives, and Chef orders everything cleaned up. Chef warns them not to say anything or the boat’s pilot will die too. Turns out, the fake Coast Guard guy is in on the whole thing.
Margot decides to fight back. She says she wants to send her food back. He has taken the joy out of eating, and she’s still hungry - the ultimate failure of a chef. “You cook with obsession, not love,” she complains. When he asks what she wants, she demands… a cheeseburger. Chef personally hand-makes her a cheeseburger as all the staff watches. She has a bite, then says she’s full and asks for the rest to go, and he brings her a box. She gets up, looks at the room full of formerly-smug assholes behind her– and leaves.
Chef thanks everyone for dining with them tonight. “You represent the ruin of my life.” It’s time for a dessert of s’mores. The staff puts a marshmallow bib on each guest and a chocolate hat on each of them. They douse the floor with graham cracker crumbs and alcohol. Chef makes an impressive speech, and some of the diners even thank him as he lights things on fire. The kitchen staff opens the gas jets.
Meanwhile, Margot sits in the boat and sees the explosion. She finishes her burger.
I had assumed going into it that this was another cannibalism movie, but it totally wasn’t that at all. No humans were eaten in this film. None.
It’s hilarious. It pokes fun at all the pretentious food people, both in the kitchen and out. Some of the dishes look absolutely delicious, but probably not for the price these people pay. I like that Chef was crazy, but not so crazy that he was willing to kill an innocent, although it looked pretty “iffy” for a bit.
The set, music, and acting are all excellent. The food looks great. Best of all, it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Short Film: From Where it Hides (2022)
• Directed by Quinn Halleck
• Written by Quinn Halleck
• Stars Gildart Jackson, Bonnie Morgan
• Run Time: 9:07
• Watch it: •
A man has checked himself out of the hospital and gets many concerned phone calls before destroying his phone in the woods.
He asks, “What if you knew the day you were going to die? There is a place deep in the forest where death hides. I am not the first to try and find death.” He writes in his diary and climbs up the mountain to an old mine.
What’s he going to find in there?
This is an excellent-looking film– great cinematography, lighting, and sets throughout the film make it fun to watch. The narrator’s voice is perfect for this as well. The creature effects are also outstanding, as is whatever happens with the story itself.
• Directed by Jordan Graham
• Written by Jordan Graham
• Stars Michael Daniel, Rachel Johnson, Aurora Love
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 25 Minutes
• Trailer: •
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Mental illness or a monstrous force plaguing a family? Maybe some of both. It’s intriguing to watch it and decipher. The acting is good, and the scenery is amazing. There are long stretches without dialogue, and that only adds to the strangeness. It’s a good one overall.
We begin with an interview with an old woman who talks about Sator, who was in charge of everything. Old Nani writes her story, which includes some of the credits. The camera walks us through her creepy old candle-filled house. We cut to someone pouring gasoline on a body and igniting it. She then levitates above the flames.
Adam walks through the woods with his gun . He blows some kind of animal call whistle, but nothing shows up. He listens to a tape of Mother on tape, talking about Sator. “Everything that moves is his; he made a covenant of peace with the animals,” she says. He lives there in the cabin with his dog.
Pete walks in and drinks some moonshine. Pete’s got something “in his head” that he wants out. Adam watches video from his trail cams, but it doesn’t work. Pete thinks the card is messed up.
The two brothers go up to the big house to look through Grandfather’s stuff; maybe he had another memory card for the camera. We flash back to Pete and Nani talking about her failing memory. Evie talks to Adam, introducing herself, but he doesn’t speak.
We hear Mother on tape again, “When you summon Sator, he turns his attention to you. Trust him completely, you will be tested, for he is a consuming fire. After you have suffered a little while, he will refine— make you pure.” The dog growls at something in the darkness outside, and Adam sees a light in the deep woods.
The next morning, Adam retrieves the memory card from the camera and watches it. We see more flashbacks where Nani doesn’t recognize Pete. He talks to her about sensing spirits. She used to do automatic writing, and she has a guardian spirit— Sator. Pete can’t believe the old lady holds onto that story above all else.
Adam is using the wilderness cams to see if he can get an image of Sator out there. We hear that Evie was Pete’s wife before the accident. Adam still talks to Evie. She’s glad Pete made it out of the accident OK. She’s sorry about Adam’s mom, “Was anybody ever able to find her?” There are several mentions of Deborah, who seems to be Adam and Pete’s sister.
Adam finds a weird horned skull-headed thing sitting in his living room. Sator? Adam’s dog vanishes. Pete thinks that Grandpa Jim sacrificed himself so that Ma could be with Sator. We get another flashback to show that Mother had been obsessed with writings about Sator. Adam started acting weird about that time, getting all silent. Deborah asks if Adam talks to Sator, but he doesn’t respond.
Adam goes out at night with his shotgun, looking. He finds a woman tied to a tree; it’s Evie. She runs away, screams, and vanishes, seeming to get pulled into the sky by something.
More flashbacks to Deborah asking Nani about her automatic writing. She can’t even read her writing anymore. She would hear people talking in her head, so she just wrote it down. Deborah mentions that Grandpa Jim’s suspicious death put Pete into an institution, and he’s getting out today. Pete and Deborah argue about leaving Adam isolated up on the mountain, but she says he’s dangerous.
Time passes, and snow falls. We watch Evie stick Pete’s face in the fireplace and cut his throat. We get a flashback to Nani wandering off at night with Deborah outside, looking for her. A bald man/Evie grabs Deborah and chokes her to death, then douses her with gas and sets her on fire, which we saw in the pre-credit sequence.
Insanity? Mass delusion? Actual monster? There are long stretches with no dialog, which adds to the sense of isolation and loneliness that Adam experiences out in the woods. The scenes where people talk are really well done, but there’s an awful lot of time where it’s just Adam doing stuff in the woods in the dark.
The scenery is awesome— I’d love to live there, even with a monster roaming the woods. The time jumps get confusing; some of the flashbacks are in black and white or in a different aspect ratio— but not all of them. It was sometimes hard to tell what was going on right now.
It’s very weird. I’m not sure I understood a lot of it. My understanding from reading the trivia is that the woman who played Nani was the director’s grandmother, and most of the interviews and stuff with her were real— she really believed in Sator and spent time in an institution because of it. I guess they made the rest of the film around that. Or at least that’s the story— it may just be the marketing spiel.
A Wounded Fawn (2022)
• Directed by Travis Stevens
• Written by Nathan Faudree, Travis Stevens
• Stars Sarah Lind, Josh Ruben, Malin Barr
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was one that gives you some early warning of what’s going to happen. But then other things happen too, and things go off the rails when madness meets magic and the lines blur. It’s very interesting and well made.
An auctioneer tells about old gods who were summoned for revenge for crimes against the innocent. It’s an auction for statues of these deities. No one knows who made the sculpture, but it’s very old. The bidding is competitive, almost entirely done by stand-ins talking to their rich buyers on their phones. And the win eventually goes to Kate Horna. She takes the little statues home, planning to deliver them to her buyer in the morning.
The doorbell rings. It’s Bruce, the main guy who was bidding against her on the sculptures. He said his buyer decided they really want the artwork, and he offers her double what she paid, plus a personal bonus. She invites him in while she calls her buyer for permission to take the deal. We see that his hands are shaking, and suddenly, the bathroom light turns red. Bruce sees that there’s some kind of monster in there, and then he kills Kate.
We cut to a therapy session. Meredith talks about calling the cops on her ex. Later, she goes to the art museum with two friends. She tells them that she has a date tonight, which, according to her friends’ reactions, seems to be a rare thing.
It’s time for her date, and we see that it’s Bruce. They talk about art and relationships on their drive. They’re going away to his place in the county for the weekend. She wants to stop for snacks and a pee, but he asks her to be patient; they’re almost there.
They eventually arrive at his isolated house in the woods. As she grabs her suitcase, she hears someone say, “Leave!” There’s no one around, which she thinks is weird. She spots the sculpture on his living room table and is impressed. But he tells her it’s a reproduction. She recognizes it from when it came through her museum for authentication and texts her friend from the museum about it.
As Bruce makes dinner, Meredith starts seeing strange things. Is she hallucinating? She seems to think so. Meanwhile, Bruce’s hands start shaking, and he quietly complains, “Not yet.” We see that there is someone outside. She sees it, and Bruce doesn’t really argue with her about it.
She wants to leave, but he’s not cooperative. She packs up her stuff and threatens to call for a ride-share. Meredith’s museum-friend calls back and tells her, “Get the hell out of there.” The statue was stolen, and the woman who had it disappeared. Meanwhile, Bruce sees the big, red owl-monster again. “OK, it’s time,” he says.
Bruce grabs Meredith from behind and kills her with his claw-knife-weapon as the owl monster watches.
He burns her clothes and then masturbates in the kitchen. When he goes back to dispose of the body, she wakes up and smacks him over the head.
Bruce wakes up and kisses Meredith. He tells her about his weird dreams. Leonora is there too, a woman he killed long ago. He wakes up, for real this time, with blood on his head. That previous bit was his imagination.
Bruce gets up and tends to his rather excessive wounds. The car is still there, so Meredith has to still be around somewhere. He goes out into the woods, where he’s stashed previous bodies in big steel drums. He’s got a head wound, and he starts hallucinating.
He runs through the woods in terror until he runs into a strange woman in a white mask. He flees to the car but gets stuck right away. The weird creatures surround him, “Murderer! Thief!” They shout.
Bruce runs back into the house and has a crazy argument with himself. He battles his inner and outer demons for a long while. He offers them the sculpture of the revenge-gods. He makes an impassioned speech about his own mental illness.
The mask-woman, now covered in snakes, asks Bruce questions about his kills, and he has no choice but to answer. He doesn’t want to kill, but the owl-thing makes him do it. The she-gods torment him all night to get him to admit that he’s a murderer and a thief.
The sun comes up, Bruce kills himself, and we see Meredith, who has duct-taped her wound and survived.
I wasn’t expecting much from the movie’s description and poster, but this was really interesting and tense all the way through. We aren’t quite sure what’s going on with Bruce, and he sometimes seems almost sympathetic.
It’s something of a feminist film. It’s something of a folk-horror film. It’s mostly a revenge story as the dead women Bruce has killed turn against him. Still, Bruce has probably the longest, most drawn-out death throes I’ve ever seen, continuing throughout the entire end credits!
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