[Sundance] Review: Babak Anvari's Sophomore Effort WOUNDS is an Occult Head Trip That You'll Want to Take

In 2016, I saw director Babak Anvari’s debut feature Under the Shadow and it instantly became a favorite. After premiering at Sundance on January 22, 2016, Under the Shadow made its rounds through the festival circuit and found its theatrical release on October 7, 2016. Netflix now owns the rights to Under the Shadow and it is currently available to stream, so if you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend it. Just be sure to watch the original version of the film with Persian dialogue and your choice of subtitles, instead of the various dubbed versions. The Persian-speaking film, shot in Jordan, is a unique story and truly terrifying for so many reasons; both a ghost story and a story about the real-life terrors of post-revolution, war-torn Tehran in the 1980s. Under the Shadow remains at the top of my favorites list for 2016 and it’s one that I’ll always recommend, so I was thrilled to see that Anvari was back at Sundance with another spooky treat.

Babak Anvari’s new film, Wounds, features an English speaking cast, including professional dreamboat, Armie Hammer, along with some powerhouse women, Dakota Johnson and Zazie Beetz, as well as Karl Glusman, and Brad William Henke. The film is based on a novella titled The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud, which after having seen the film, I cannot wait to read. Wounds is set in New Orleans where Will (Armie Hammer) bartends at a local bar called Rosie’s. Will seems to have a pretty mediocre life. He has a job, a girlfriend (Dakota Johnson), and his bar family - Alicia (Zazie Beetz), Eric (Brad William Henke), and Rosie (Kerry Cahill), and that all seems to be enough for him. Little does he know, his life is about to change after a bar fight breaks out at Rosie’s and someone leaves their cell phone behind. After collecting the phone, he manages to unlock it in an attempt to return it to its owner, but the content he finds in the phone is more disturbing than he ever could have imagined.

The film goes from zero to a hundred real quick and it felt like a real throwback to some of my favorite horror films of my childhood like The Ring and The Evil Dead. The film dabbles in the occult and while I’ve always been intrigued by that world, this film was one big heaping pile of NOPE and reminded me that it is not to be messed with. It was so much fun to see the cast, particularly Hammer and Johnson, play in a world that they aren’t typically cast. Call Me By Your Name is one of my absolute favorites and while Armie Hammer shines in his role of Oliver in that film, Wounds is a complete turnaround from that intimate, romantic tale. In Wounds, Hammer is completely unhinged and it was exciting to see him play such a different character and I hope he isn’t done exploring his options in genre film.

It’s not often you see a film that invokes real feelings in you, almost as if you are there, sharing the experience with the characters, but Wounds did just that. The best word I can use to describe the world of Wounds is ICKY, and I felt icky the whole way through, taking that feeling back with me to my room where I struggled to fall asleep. Thanks a lot, Babak. As a horror fan, it’s so exciting to see films that really scare you and leave you feeling unsettled. Babak Anvari is now two for two and I am chomping at the bit to see what he has coming up next.

Wounds has a scheduled release date for March 29, 2019, and I highly recommend you see it in theatres as soon as you can.