GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
After the haunted house horror, GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR, and vampire horror JAKOB’S WIFE, filmmaker Travis Stevens continues to try his hand at different types of genre films with A WOUNDED FAWN. Inspired by the Greek myth of the Furies, or Erinyes, it tells the story of museum curator Meredith (Sarah Lind), a woman in peril on a romantic weekend break with charming serial killer, Bruce (Josh Ruben).
In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Stevens discussed exploring the symbolism of Greek mythology to craft an expressionistic and abstract vision, and to offer a fresh take on a familiar narrative.
FRIGHTFEST: You’ve always struck me as a confident filmmaker, someone I see as being unfazed, and yet I heard you were nervous showing A WOUNDED FAWN at FRIGHTFEST. Could you talk about this experience and your broader intentions for the film?
TRAVIS STEVENS: You're always nervous when you're showing work to an audience. There’s something beautiful about the FrightFest audience specifically, where because the festival is so old, and the audience is made up of true blood horror fans, you know that you're going to get their honest reaction to the film.
They’re not weekend horror fans: "Let’s go and check out a film.” They've seen it all before and you better bring something that blows their minds. That was certainly what I was trying to do with this film, but you never know how it's going to play, until you see it on that giant ass screen [laughs].
In terms of my intention, I'm trying to expand what I do as a filmmaker, what’s interesting to me, what I'm capable of, and try to get better with each film. That was definitely the hope.
FF: In A WOUNDED FAWN, there was the opportunity to take an hyper-narrative approach to Greek mythology. Instead, you choose a more conceptual approach, stripping back the narrative to create an aesthetic mood piece.
TS: That was the creative thesis for it. Another filmmaker may have looked to the Greek myth and really lived in that more literally. For me, what I found interesting was what the Erinyes symbolised, versus the actual word of the text.
Along with the references to previous serial killer films and giallos, it was about creating a tapestry. Together those elements created an experience for the audience, versus honing in on just one, and following it all the way through.
I'm more interested in remixing and deconstructing, and then reconstructing and remixing these things into something for you to experience. I’ll also say, the horror plot has to be a hell of a fucking plot to maintain your attention, so there's something to be said for going minimalist, almost like a Japanese poem, or like less brush strokes, but each one has more impact.
FF: I’ve had conversations with filmmakers that have left me with the impression that their reverence for literature, places cinema in its shadow. Talking to Director Jane Magnusson, she spoke about how cinema needs more time, and her belief that, “… the history of cinema will eventually get the same status as the history of literature.” From previous conversations, I know you’re supportive of the idea that we need to explore what cinema could be, and it’s an idea I find myself continually returning to.
TS: This certainly came into focus for me on A WOUNDED FAWN. There are some painters that can paint a photorealistic portrait of a covered bridge. Ah, yes, it looks almost like a photo - great. That requires a certain amount of technical skill and artistry. Congratulations, you recreated reality in a perfect way.
Well there's also a person who's picking up trash off the street, stapling it to a piece of board, then dripping honey on it, and putting it on a gallery wall. That’s also art, but it’s a different skill set and it creates a different emotional response – it has a different objective.
I feel like cinema, and certainly genre cinema, leans more towards the covered bridge portrait than the art gallery. I'm more interested in the abstract and the expressionistic, the texture of art, and the intention behind those decisions. I’m interested in leaving the audience to do a little bit of work to get the meaning of it, whether it's my meaning, their meaning, or the meaning of the material.
FF: Horror cinema is criticised for its frequent depictions of misogynistic violence and objectification of women. It’s a fair criticism, but female characters are also positioned to survive and even transcend the violence. This creates a visceral debate between the two sides. What are your thoughts on this contentious point?
TS: … This was something that I discussed with Sarah – the framework of this story is something we've seen before. A woman goes to a cabin with a man and he attacks her – is she going to survive? There have been some incredible films with that as their story point, but you're trying to do something fresh.
[…] Getting into the academia of these films, and getting a sense of what has been done before, I was positioned, with Sarah’s help, to make this film different.
What I find interesting about this film is Meredith has already gone through one traumatic storyline - it happened before the events in A WOUNDED FAWN. So we have a character that's now being challenged by her past. She already has the skills to overcome that challenge, and that seemed a more interesting starting place. She’s well equipped, and the tension in the movie in the first half is, is she going to pay attention to her intuition, or is she going to fail and ignore it, and pay the price?
It felt like a fresher approach to the female character in jeopardy, and for me what this movie is about is that she's not really at risk. Yes, he's a dangerous man, he attacks her, but she has the skills to defeat him from the get go. This is more a movie about watching a man who's got an inflated sense of self - it's about him being put through the wringer.
FF: We think in these narrow terms of victim and villain, protagonist and antagonist, and assume the victim is the one we should sympathise with. In A WOUNDED FAWN, you’re challenging these naïve concepts, and if he’s the victim, it’s a fate he has orchestrated.
TS: We make assumptions about our characters, where the first ten minutes of the movie will set them up, and then it's going to put them through the wringer. […] We can start in a more original place, and this is what I mean by deconstructing and reconstructing. The audience, or at least as an audience member I’m craving a different spin on this stuff, on what a protagonist looks like and how they function within the story.
FF: The scope to create emotion goes beyond narrative, and the power of cinema has always been the way it can trigger an emotional response. In a sense, you’re exploring the relationship between narrative and emotion.
TS: What we're trying to experience or create here is image and sound, narrative framing and an emotional response – this is what I’m striving for.
I'm not interested in someone sitting me down and telling me what happened, that’s fucking boring. What I want are the details of how they felt, what was happening between those big moments in the day. That’s what art is - it's not information, it's emotion.
A WOUNDED FAWN is streaming on Shudder.
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