Continuously shocking and often painful to watch, the New Zealand horror film Wound should challenge its audience, many of whom believe the genre is best enjoyed as camp entertainment.
Its frequently sobbing, deeply disturbed heroine, Susan (Kate O’Rourke), is an incest victim who castrates her father in the film’s graphic opening scene, then phones mom up to chat about something else. Problem there: Mom has been dead for years. Probably Susan killed her, although who knows – Wound unfolds through Susan’s twisted point of view, so we’re guessing what’s real and imagined throughout.
Susan has a daughter, Tanya (Te Kaea Beri), given up for adoption long ago, with even more problems. She also has an employer boyfriend who is very into S&M (Campbell Cooley). And a job as a telephone marketer that sometimes causes her to pass out in a nervous fluster.
Awash in menstrual blood and populated by dream rapists in pig masks, Wound is a revenge-fantasy splatter movie that gives evidence of filmmaking skill in every one of its lean, mean 75 minutes. Filmmaker David Blyth ( Death Warmed Up, Angel Mine) knows how to work an audience over. The film is deep in mystery and contains enough jolts to stock a dozen horror movies. (David Cronenberg would have killed to get Blyth’s twin-birth scene into Dead Ringers.)
But many viewers, even horror geeks, will have trouble with O’Rourke’s scrupulously honest portrayal. Horror directors usually pull their punches with psychological and physical horror, hiring beautiful actresses to take a beating, as if to signal to audiences: Everything is okay, remember, you’re watching a movie. (Think of Catherine Deneuve falling apart in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, wandering around an empty apartment in a sheer nightgown, never a blond hair out of place.)
Working seemingly without makeup, her hair lank with nervous sweat, O’Rourke, by comparison, is a frightened animal caught in a painful trap. Much of Wound has about it an air of clinical despair that has us gasping for fresh, better air.
And so we’re left with the question: Is honest horror appropriate movie entertainment? Do we want real blood as well as real butter on our popcorn?
Audiences can decide for themselves. Wound is a nightmare world that will punish some tourists. Susan’s mother’s tomb bears the warning: “the ties that bind.”
You may not want to be tied down to the suffering characters in filmmaker David Blyth’s world.
Special to The Globe and Mail
- Written and directed by David Blyth
- Starring Kate O’Rourke, Te Kaea Beri and Campbell Cooley
- Classification: NA