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& # 39; Wound & # 39; Review | Sundance 2019

Armie Hammer stars as New Orleans bartender, opening a portal that invites demons to his world in this second move from & # 39; Under the Shadow & # 39; Director Babak Anvari.

Anyone with a cockroach phobia may consider this a trigger warning because Wounds contain a large number of them. A party marriage of H.P. Lovecraft and David Cronenberg, the film traces the budding lineage of Armie Hamer's charming but superficial New Orleans bartender Will, after undoubtedly letting madness into his head, infecting his romantic relationships and friendships while having a disturbing view of the empty abyss of his own soul.

Writer Director Babak Anvari, who kicked excitement in Sundance in 201

6 with the amazing household seizure in his native Iran, Under the Shadow is less distinctive with this March release from Annapurna. But even though it is a disappointment on these terms, transient genre consumers should come up with trying to decipher the spooky ambiguities of the dense text.

Based on the short story The Visible Filth of the dark fantasy author Nathan Ballingrud, Wound quickly creates Will as an ordinary man who has chosen to make a meaningful investment in life and prefers that coast by its beautiful look, cocky way and the enviable way he fills a T-shirt. Since he left Tulane University, he has found his niche working at night shift on the roach-infested neighborhood dive bar Rosie's. Unlike some of his clients, he rarely gets wasted, but prefers a constant splash of intake during the day to "maintain buzz".

Will live with graduate student Carrie (Dakota Johnson) but is not too deeply committed to flirting aggressively with Rosie's regular Alicia (Zazie Beetz), ignoring her booming relationship with Jeffrey (Karl Glusman).

When oil worker Eric (Brad William Henke) rolls for a night on a rowdy bender, an evil fight goes beyond the pool table and Eric gets his face slashed open with a broken beer bottle. One of a group of likely underage college students drops a smartphone while flying from the stage and will pocket it and intend to return it to the owner. But later in the home, acute texts appear from one of the freaked-out millennials, and cruel images in the unit's photo storage lead. On a macabre journey into the ignorant, with Carrie getting caught in it too.

The public acquainted with Ballingrud's history will be better equipped than the uninitiated to make sense of all this, especially the more arcane mumbo-jumbo elements. These include an old, multi-volume tome on gnostic rituals, human sacrifices, and the power of flesh wounds to transcend physical boundaries, not to mention a mesmeric web of a hollow rail.

The more reluctant fear that a mobile phone will be a ship of evil works better (who hasn't thought of their iPhone as a fast track to demonic possession?), In calls that release the splitting cave of an inferno or others who induce live hallucinations as the device appears to melt into an attack of scary crawly bugs. Not recommended while driving.

The main point of this is that Will's mounting terror is rooted in a sudden invasive awareness of who he is, where he is in his stagnant life and how superficially his relationships are with the people around him. Carrie drives it home when she calls him an empty shell: "There is nothing to satisfy."

It would, of course, be more effective if Johnson did not provide such a flat, free performance. (Making Carrie and TS Eliot scholars follow in the great tradition Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist in the Bond film, The World Is Not Sufficient .) Beetz brings a more vivid and sexy presence, her character simultaneously drawn to Will while he keeps him in arm's length, but none of the women get much fabric.

This is very much Hammer's movie, and he loses gamed in the sweaty panic of the role and undermines his golden matinee-idol persona to explore the gnawing feeling of inadequacy that eats away at will and encounters him with overwhelming anger. He also gets some odd visceral body scarring moments, especially an itching that seems uncomfortable and immediately recalls the armpit opening in the early Cronenberg entry Rabid .

There is nothing here that comes close to the fascinating cultural specificity, the news-oriented political perspective or the increasing personal connection of Anvari's first move set in Tehran in his childhood, near the end of the prolonged Iran the Iraq war. But the director, however, remains a skilled craftsman who subtly tap into New Orleans's tasteful story as a dark magic hub while wrapping the entire action in a soupy soundscape of surrounding fears.

Location: Sundance Film Festival (Midnight)
Cast: Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, Zazie Beetz, Karl Glusman, Brad William Henke, Kerry Cahill, Terence Rosemore
Production companies: Two & Two Pictures, AZA Films
Distribution: Annapurna Pictures
Conductor: Babak Anvari, based on the short story The Visible Truth by Nathan Ballingrud
Manufacturers: Lucan Toh, Babak Anvari, Christopher Kopp
Megan Ellison, Jillian Longnecker, Andrew Harvey, Brian Pitt
Photographer: Kit Fraser
Production Designer: Chad Keith
Costume Designer: Meagan McLaughlin
Editor: Chris Barwell
Casting: Mark Bennett

94 minutes

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