Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Furies (Australia, 2019)

One would be hard-pressed to claim that the this relatively obscure (at least in Europe and possibly stateside) Australian horror flick in any way brims with true creativity or new ideas, but as 
proverbial as the basic plot cum narrative is, the movie itself goes a long way on familiar fumes and gets a lot of mileage without being boring. Aided by a great location, scary killers, good sun-bleached cinematography, more than passable acting by most of the female cast (who, in all truth, are the only ones required to act), a solid music score that substantially underscores the tension and suspense, and some absolutely mind-blowing practical gore effects, The Furies keeps the gore-friendly viewer pretty much riveted to the blood-drenched screen until the final scene. New, it isn't; well-made, it is — it's a shame, however, that the first time feature film director Tony D'Aquino, who also wrote the movie, did not have the cahones to try to at least slightly dilute the movie's innate and obvious misogynist slant by, say, making the hunt bisexual instead of so heterosexual. (In this polysexual day and age of the millennials, not that absurd of a concept — although things might be different Down Under.)
Trailer to
The Furies:

Set in an oddly surreal-looking outback forest somewhere in Australia, The Furies opens like so many women-in-danger flicks with an attractive and unarmed woman, obviously worse for the wear and not dressed for having fun in the countryside, being chased by a filthy, masked man who, going by the size of his murderous weapon (in his hand; the one in his trousers we never see), is definitely not out to pleasantly ask for a date. Finding herself injured and up-against-a-tree, it looks like our unnamed beauty is about to meet her maker when suddenly another equally soiled masked man appears from nowhere and, after a short fight, kills the first would-be woman-killer, gathers the screaming beauty into his arms, and carries her off to a fate [not really] unknown....
And thus we first see the situation that is later clarified: a modernized twist of the basic Most Dangerous Game (1932 / "new" trailer) and its numerous ilk — think Turkey Shoot (1982 / trailer), The Woman Hunt (1972 / full film), Antebellum (2020 / trailer) or even Bloodlust! (1961). Only, this time the hunters are soiled-looking, masked wackos with axes/scythes/machetes/etc., and the hunted are all unarmed women — and, also, the hunters are just as ready to kill each other as they are to kill the women. The big difference in the game played here is the "beauty and the beast" aspect: the "beasts" (as in "masked killers") are trying to find their "beauty" (as in that special, unwilling female participant) with whom they can walk off into the sunset, but should that special woman be killed before they can enter less-than-consensual bliss, the hunters themselves also die. (And how the blood and brain splatter when those heads explode!)
Of course, the description alone already reveals a big flaw in the narrative. That the women are part of the game is not a matter of choice: they are simply taken, as in disappear from the streets or home, so their participation cannot really be questioned. But the masked killers, on the other hand, are all apparently there by choice, as evident in their outfits (some of which indicate the collection of trophies from past kills) and the consequentiality with which they approach the hunt — but what man, psycho killer or Proud Boy or Republican or incel or none of the named, is really going to dress and play the part in a game that they know guarantees their own bloody demise should they fail? In a game in which failure looms inordinately large as only one surviving couple is allowed? And further, would the game organizers, who watch the game via cameras implanted in the eyes of the players and killers, really be so budget-conscious as to place exploding devices only in the heads of the killers and not in the women? (Doubtful, even if the female is considered by many — as in, the average psycho killer or Proud Boy or Republican or incel — as the "weaker" sex, but that's how it is in the movie.) Lastly, though possibly open for argument, the concept that the lead woman's epilepsy somehow allows her to occasionally "see" through the cameras implanted in her head and those of others seems more expedient than logical or plausible.
Okay, so the plot has holes in it. It's also, inarguably, deeply misogynistic, despite a "Fuck the Patriarchy" on a wall early on in the movie, and the misogyny is in no way overcome by the eventual resourcefulness and grit of main woman (an excellent Airlie Dodds, of Killing Ground [2016 / trailer], as Kayla), the kill-to-survive readiness of some of the other women, the warped "emotional growth" of the somewhat autistic character Rose (a believable Linda Ngo of Parfum Fatale [2015 / trailer]), or the I Spit on Your Grave (1978 / trailer & 2010 / trailer)-tinged ending. But, damn, the film does grab you tightly by the gonads and keep you watching until the end, particularly since the kills (like the "thrill" of the chase) come often and are constant.
It's been a long, long time since we here at a wasted life have seen a movie with practical effects as realistic and effective as those in The Furies — there is a "defacing" scene that is truly painful to watch, and not just because it's happening to a defenseless woman at the hands of a huge masked white man. But as convincing and constant as the gore is, gore alone won't make a movie "work", especially a movie that follows a template as old as the one in The Furies. Much of the success is owed to the women: with the possible exception of Kayla's best friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), whom Kayla is so fixated on saving, they are universally convincing for the generally short screen time they almost all have, and do a lot to make the movie watchable.
To that, as mentioned earlier in passing, the setting is also effective, and the narrative seldom lags: Tony D'Aquino keeps the action at top speed and amplified by a score that always (but oddly unobtrusively) kicks in a double force whenever things start going south again. The unexpected "shock" semi-resolution is gut-kicker, but the final scene doesn't really work, although one wishes it did. (It is doubtful that anyone involved in the game would be sloppy enough to leave a clue to their identity as large as the one found.) 
All in all, however, The Furies is a truly decent and well-made old-school exploitation film (minus breasts, of course, because breasts, unlike violence, corrupt and simply don't belong in the films of today), and Tony D'Aquino is obviously a talent to watch. There are busy professionals out there that have yet to make a movie as good as this one, though many have made one less bloody and less violent.

That said, heed our final warning: if you are not in any way a gorehound, this will definitely not be your cup of tea.

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