Is the smart phone due for the same reckoning as the VHS tape? While the beloved J-horror franchise (and its Americanized remakes) made audiences fearful of the ol’ analog tape and its evil associates like the VHS player and the non-HD television set, it looks as if Babak Anvari’s “Wounds” just might do the same for the iPhone. While Anvari’s breakout horror feature “Under the Shadow” injected supernatural terror into war-torn post-revolutionary Tehran, already a fraught enough environment without creeping shadow monsters, the filmmaker’s follow-up opts for more mainstream concerns.
An adaptation of Nathan Ballingrud’s novella “The Visible Filth,” Anvari’s Hulu-bound horror film follows the horror wrought by, of all things, a wayward cell phone. Starring Armie Hammer as laid-back and lackadaisical bartender Will and Dakota Johnson as his (perhaps rightly suspicious) girlfriend Carrie, the film kicks off after a busy evening at Will’s New Orleans bar, during which a pack of wily teens cause a little havoc and then — in truly nightmarish fashion — leave behind one of their iPhones.
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For unknown reasons, Will opts to take the phone home, only to look at its various media in an attempt to discern its ownership (not really his job, but okay). And that’s when he discovers a treasure trove of absolutely horrible material, including at least one video of a severed head (teens these days!). But that’s not all, because as Will (and later, Carrie) spend more time with the phone and its terrible secrets, their psychological states begin to unravel, weird wounds start to appear, and a whole mess of bugs start showing up in inopportune places. Is it the cell phone? Or something else?
In his C- review out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich hailed Anvari’s horror chops but called the overall effect disappointing and thin. In part, he wrote, “While Anvari has a killer instinct for framing a room for maximum dread, pulling our eyes into shadowy corners only to sock us from another direction completely, his visual imagination remains underdeveloped. Many of the sudden frights come from quick flashes of unrelated imagery (a bloody eyeball here, a severed head there), and that trick is old before he even trots it out. Will and Carrie’s house eventually hosts a portal to…something bad…but the threat of something in the darkness is always scarier than what Anvari eventually shows us — at least until the go-for-broke final scene, which is disconnected from the drama of Will’s story but nevertheless hints at the movie a more disciplined ‘Wounds’ might have been.”
The film also stars Zazie Beetz and Karl Glusman.
Check out the first trailer for “Wounds” below. The film will be available on Hulu starting on October 18.