Billed as “female-led horror not for the faint of heart”, I went into a screening of The Furies (2019), the first feature effort by director Tony D’Aquino fully ready for a feminist gore-fest. Considering our main characters Kayla (Airlie Dodds) and Maddie (Ebony Vagulans) are introduced spray painting “Fuck the patriarchy” in an underpass; I was pretty excited for where the film was going to go. Did it live up to my expectations? Or was it 82 minutes of women being hacked up for no real reason? Let’s find out!
The Furies has cited that it was majorly influenced by the slashers of the ‘80s, and considering the film opens with a women in poorly chosen footwear running for her life before severely injuring her ankle, creepy looking men in even creepier homemade masks, and someone getting their guts spilled out with a scythe, it seemed like things were going pretty well.
Kayla and Maddie are introduced in a rapid attempt at character development before the murder starts back up again. We find out Kayla is off to college, she’s spent most of her life following Maddie around like a puppy, and Maddie is finally sick of it. She tells Kayla she needs to get out there and do something scary, though she probably didn’t mean getting kidnapped by a bunch of masked men, but there you go. Oh, and Kayla also has epilepsy – that’s really important. Shortly after fighting about what crap friends they both are, both women are snatched. Kayla has brief flashes of an operating theatre, before waking up in a box that has been dumped in the middle of nowhere.
Kayla stumbles across some other women, and they quickly deduce that someone has placed them in this situation, and chances are Maddie is still alive somewhere if they can find her. It’s now that Kayla has the first of many epileptic seizures, which, while not ideal as they incapacitate her when she needs to have her wits about her, do give her an advantage. During her seizures, Kayla is able to see through the eyes of other inhabitants of the forest. Inhabitants who just happen to be the bad guys and who always happen to be doing something which is quite handy for Kayla to see.
We soon find out that as well as six women who have been dumped in the forest, dubbed ‘Beauties’, there are also six murderers, each with their own distinctive mask and nicknamed ‘Beasts’. Don’t worry; a character actually says “Beauty and the Beast!” later on in case it was too subtle for you. The Beasts are obviously tasked with hunting down the Beauties and murdering them as horribly as possible, but each Beast also has an assigned Beauty, which he much protect at all costs. Kayla’s visions are also explained when we find out that all the players in the game have a camera embedded in their eye so that a mysterious someone can watch over everything that is happening.
As a horror fan, this movie was quite enjoyable. Each mask sported by the Beasts has evidently taken influence from classic horror movie villains such as Jason and Leatherface, and they clearly worked hard to create distinctive and terrifying characters for each of them, with everyone favouring a different murder weapon. I also appreciate a horror that takes place almost exclusively during the day, meaning our main characters have nowhere to hide once they start getting chased.
The effects are also pretty amazing and drew a lot of gasps and utterance of swear words from the audience I watched it with, including a solid “nope” from me at one point as well. The effects looked entirely practical, including particularly gruesome scenes involving a slow axe to the face and a teaspoon meeting an eyeball. However, some of the money shots were cut away from. Axes were swung, and while we got to see the final, head-splitting results, we didn’t actually get to see the axe make contact. This happened a couple of times, and it was slightly disappointing, as I wanted to see more. Also, a lot of the blood splatter looked as if it was either entirely, or at least enhanced by CGI, which seemed entirely out of place considering how impressive the rest of the effects were.
I feel like as a female horror fan, I was especially disappointed by the plot of the film, and it only got worse as the film progressed. The Furies are three goddesses of vengeance from Greek mythology, so I was ready for these six Beauties to team up as soon as possible and start kicking ass. However, that never really happens, and while they skirt around the issue as we wait for the payoff, it soon just turns into the women fighting within their group and behaving just as badly as the Beasts. By the time we get to the sequel-baiting final act, I’ve had to sit through too much violence directed at women to appreciate any feminist undertones the film may be trying to portray. It’s literally men brutally murdering scared and defenceless women, for the entertainment of additional unseen men.
Much like the opening scene cramming as much character backstory as possible into a very short period, the ending feels entirely tacked on, and we really don’t get any answers for what’s been going on. Sometimes leaving the end of a film open-ended is acceptable, but in this case, it just feels a bit lazy, and like they weren’t really sure how to wrap up the story. I feel like considering the film only comes in at 82 minutes there is really no excuse for such a cramped opening and ending. I know they wanted to create a gore-filled experience, but it doesn’t all have to be people getting their arms ripped off. Well-thought-out characters and plots are okay in horror movies as well.
Overall, The Furies is an okay effort if you’re looking for something a bit gruesome with some interesting kills, as well as some funny moments. However, if you’re going into this looking for a satisfying tale of female vengeance, or anything that comes close to a classic ’80s slasher, then chances are you’ll be severely disappointed.
The Furies made its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019.