Breathing Down Your Neck
As you may know if you followed along with Tim's Australian Winter of Blood, horror from Down Under is something to be reckoned with. When you're making a film with the intent to scare people who live every minute of their daily lives at risk of being horribly maimed or poisoned, you have to go the extra mile. So when The Furies finally dropped on Shudder, of course I clicked play right away. Here's what you're in for.
After a fight with her adventurous best friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), risk-averse Kayla (Airlie Dodds) runs into one of the riskiest situations imaginable when they are kidnapped and dumped in an abandoned mining town in the middle of the outback. She quickly discovers other kidnapped women roaming the bush, all of whom are being hunted by a group of masked killers. Kayla, who is epileptic and has run out of meds, keeps sliding into a catatonic state, but this might prove to be her biggest weapon, because for whatever reason this allows her to see glimpses through the eyes of the killers. She's on a mission to save Maddie, save herself, and team up with any women she finds willing to do the same.
I will say this for The Furies: if you've come for a gory movie, you've gotten yourself a gory fucking movie. The film delivers a charcuterie platter of horrible ways to die, rendered in effects that at least seem to be largely practical. These effects are so lovingly created that they call to mind The Prowler (what I consider to be the best work of gore maestro Tom Savini), another film that pushes so close to the edge that even my gore-loving self starts to have doubts about how healthy it is to be watching this. This is a compliment. I think.
The scene that caused this flicker of doubt was a scene of an axe sloooooowly being pressed into a woman's face, a moment so spectacularly gruesome that it can't help but impress, yet so luxuriating in its own ickiness that I had to take a step back and assess the movie's overall stance on violence against women.
There's a difference between a violent film and a misogynist film, and The Furies definitely leans toward the former. And yet there's that lingering feeling that raises a lot of questions. Sure, some of the male killers get gory deaths too, but are we asked to revel in them in quite the same way? Is Kayla a strong female character, or just a hollow girl power cypher with a little bit of "disability = magic superpowers" dust sprinkled on top? These questions are not answered by the screenplay, which doesn't have anything particularly interesting to say about being a woman in the modern age, about violence, or even about the inane world it's eagerly crafting around its central premise.
Come to think of it, the screenplay is by far the biggest liability of The Furies. Every character behaves like a 12-year-old, except for the character who is an actual 12-year-old, who acts like a 5-year-old and is played by a 24-year-old. As a natural extension, the script is obsessed with teasing out the concept of what a real friend does or doesn't do, and this never snags on anything resembling a theme. It merely hammers on the subject like a kid who learned a new word and wants nothing more to repeat it thirty times a minute from the back seat during a cross-country road trip. But at least there's plenty of killin' in between this dialogue that makes you want to bang your head against the steering wheel just so you can hear a different noise!
Unfortunately, if you're not a gorehound with a rapacious appetite, The Furies doesn't have a whole lot to offer you. The writing is obviously its biggest liability, but even the elements that appear to be strengths at first quickly wither and pale as the movie wears on. The cinematography, which presents the parched landscape with the faded palette of an old photograph, does drive home the desolation of the area, but it also leaches the color out anything that threatens to be visually interesting. Likewise, the score which is full of those perennially popular Inception drones, seems promising until it becomes clear that they wrote exactly one music cue that they're content to repeat until the end of linear time.
But as far as gory foreign thrillers streaming on Shudder about a woman turning the tables against wicked men go, The Furies... actually still isn't the best. You know what, just watch Revenge and call it a day.
Brennan Klein is a millennial who knows way more about 80's slasher movies than he has any right to. You can find his other reviews on his blog Popcorn Culture. Follow him on Twitter, if you feel like it.