Babak Anvari’s slow-burn horror Wounds lets the audience follow a mysterious threat with as many sporadic hints as its characters are afforded – but the final stretch offers cryptic answers and a few more shocking questions.
So, what’s the story here?
Events have led Will, a bartender in New Orleans, to follow the clues left by a forgotten smartphone and an endless stream of scuttling cockroaches into the abyss, controlled by something bigger than all of us.
After he picks up the phone left behind by a group of (probably underaged) college students, Will starts receiving strange messages and images – decapitated heads, bloody teeth, cries for help. The bizarre events affect his girlfriend, Carrie, as well, who he finds numbly staring at an animated tunnel on her laptop one evening, unconscious of what had led her there.
Seems fairly standard, go on
Going through her browser history, Will finds that Carrie had been searching for Garrett, the college student who had been texting Will on the mysterious phone (“I think something’s here with me… we shouldn’t have messed with those books!” and so on), as well as information on a book called The Translation of Wounds.
He lands on a forum where Garrett had asked questions where readers informed him of the links between the book and a “gnostic ritual of human sacrifice”.
How does this link to Will?
Well, the messages from Garrett become increasingly ominous, leading to actual nightmare visions of him in Will’s house, saying “We opened a portal. Something came and possessed us. Now it sees you are the perfect vessel for more”.
Fast forward to the last scene of the film, in which Will, after breaking up with Carrie, pays a visit to his friend Eric – a regular at the bar he works at, who got into a fight that resulted in a gaping cheek wound. Will edges closer to check on Eric, in bed – who then reveals he has a “present” to give Will from the college kids, “wrapped in flesh”.
A gift wrapped in flesh?!
Yeah, it’s a bit barmy. Later, Will connects the dots and leans in closer to Eric’s wound. He rings Garrett, and static noise on the end of the line fills the room, as cockroaches swarm in as well. “Fix me”, Will whispers, “Make me whole.” He opens his mouth, cockroaches cover the camera, and the glimpse of some kind of viscous body with a protruding eyeball exits Eric’s wound as Will opens his mouth.
What is a “gnostic ritual”?
In short – gnosticism rejects the material world in favour of the spiritual realm. It believes in using bodies as vehicles to bridge worlds, to elevate humans towards something more complete. In Wounds, the vehicle is Will – described by Carrie when they break up as “a mock person” – aimlessly living with no meaning until the cursed phone comes into his life.
Eric’s wound opens the portal that sucks Will into the dangerous plans the kids had already started – and the cockroaches roam and multiply and linger on simple plains of toxicity. What exactly escapes from Eric’s wound is unclear, letting Will fulfil his purpose without going into the details of who, what, where, why.
So Wounds is vague on purpose?
What matters is that the connection has been made, the open injury has healed, the empty body has finally found a reason to exist. Wounds deliberately leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and encourages a Google search of the audience’s own – into gnostic rituals, into the ways to keep flesh-eating bugs at bay. Whatever you do, just make sure they don’t bite.
Wounds is streaming now on Netflix