Monday, January 13, 2020

Tale As Old As Time

Call it "Emily saw The Running Man in the theaters at age five and has never been able to shake it," syndrome, but 32 years later, I still can't turn down a hunting humans adjacent horror flick.

Quick Plot: Maddie is trying to get her pal Kayla to take a few more chances in life, but Kayla's lifelong epilepsy has helped her to build something of a wall. What's the best way to challenge your lifestyle? Why, get kidnapped by a shadow organization that drops young women in a sprawling forest and releases a gaggle of masked maniacs to hunt them down, of course!

That description makes writer/director Tony D'Aquino's The Furies sound a little familiar, but the script has an interesting twist up its very bloody, occasionally armless sleeve: the Leatherface-ish killers are each charged to protect one of the prey. When the "beast's" assigned "beauty" dies, his head explodes. 

It's messy. 

Once Kayla figures out the game, she tries to rally the rest of the contestants to work together to mixed effect. Younger home-schooled Rose is eager to latch on, while more pessimistic Sheena is hardly eager to trust a stranger whose safety puts her own life at risk, especially after a few ill-timed stabbings throw into question who can really be trusted. 

The Furies is a brisk watch, wasting no time to drown us in some very gooey practical effects. The action itself is quite cruel and vicious, but thankfully, the film is smart enough to avoid any implication of sexual violence. There's a traditional fairy tale gendered element to the division of the female hunted and their male protectors, but Kayla's resolve goes a long way in attempting to spin that around.

Unfortunately for the overall effect of The Furies, this is a film that seems to have ambitions that exceed its own running time. I won't spoil the ending, but it's riddled with some very odd choices on D'Aquino's part. What could have been a very slick and satisfying action horror instead might as well end on a "Come Back For Chapter 2" notice. It's a strange choice, and while the action and performances before it make The Furies a more-than-entertaining watch, the decision to rob its audience of resolution doesn't leave anyone feeling positive.

High Points
Much credit to lead actress Airlie Dodds, who backs up strong screen presence with the perfect balance of victim-turned-badass in an intelligent, believable way

Low Points
Vague spoiler alert: I don't necessarily have an issue with a film leaving some unresolved mystery, but when that lack of resolution seems built entirely on a sequel that may or may not happen, it's impossible not to walk away feeling rather dissatisfied

Lessons Learned
You know you've found your villain when his vanity license plate reads "FERRARI"

Never trust someone if you can't see their face...particularly if that's because it's hidden by a flesh mask covered in blood

Have you learned nothing, women in horror movies who are so intense in their new self defense skills that they never look before they stab? Apparently, as so many films post-The Descent have taught us, no. No they have not

The Furies felt full of untapped potential, but it was still built on some very strong elements: quality cast, decent if undeveloped story, and outstandingly gross gore. It needs a sequel to really satisfy, but for a quick watch on Shudder, it's certainly an effective, fast-moving time killer. 

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