'The Furies' Review: A Fresh and Gory Take on the Slasher

Australia delivers the messy goods.

The Furies

Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs October 17th through the 25th.

Slashers are among the simplest of the horror sub-genres in that all they require are a killer who kills. Motivation is rarely important, but the best leave viewers with creative kills and a “final girl” worth celebrating and championing. The details leave plenty of room for filmmakers to add their own spin, and when they do it right the results can be truly memorable. From Scream (1996) to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), fresh ideas and fresh blood are the keys to standing out in a crowded field. The Furies hits a few bumps along the way, but with a twisted take on traditional tropes and some jaw-dropping gore beats this Australian gem more than satisfies a slasher fan’s needs.

Kayla (Airlie Dodds) isn’t much of a risk-taker and prefers to avoid conflicts, but her hand is forced when she’s abducted and left to awake in a coffin set out in the middle of the Australian Outback. Within moments she finds herself running from a masked man carrying a weapon and a penchant for violence, but she also discovers that she’s not alone. There are other women here — and there are other masked killers too. They’re now on the run together, but when Kayla starts “seeing” through the POV of the killers she realizes there’s far more to their predicament than meets the eye.

Writer/director Tony D’Aquino marries the expected slasher beats with film elements as diverse as The Running Man (1987), Predators (2010), and The Den (2013), and the result is a fast-moving thriller with multiple moving pieces. It’s possible there are too many ideas racing through its 82-minute running time, but ambition is a rare enough trait with slashers that it’s hard to criticize a film for aiming high. Add in some gory kills and a solid ending designed to leave viewers wanting more, and you have a must-see slasher in a crowded horror genre.

The title is a nod to Greek mythology and the Erinyes — aka the Furies — who were female deities dedicated to vengeance against men. The implication for a slasher are clear enough, and D’Aquino’s film seems to suggest an embrace of the idea, but the structure of its game and choices made with the script leave it somewhat underdeveloped. The women are fighting against the men, in theory anyway, but much of their violence is directed at each other instead. It adds some unexpected directions into the mix, but it flies in the face of women taking vengeance against men for much of the film.

This element of the film conflicts with much of what the sub-genre has taught us about rooting for the would-be victims, but while it doesn’t quite mesh with the title’s suggested angle it offers new conflicts and challenges for viewers. Where’s the line when you’re fighting for survival? Some of the protagonists here seem to cross it, but how do you fault someone for playing within the rules of a game they didn’t choose? It ultimately adds some unexpected weight to the film, and that lasts through to an ending that pairs empowerment with the emotional and mental cost of it all.

For some viewers, of course, the most important aspect of a slasher is the kills, and as mentioned above The Furies delivers mightily on that front. Stabbings, slashings, exploding heads, and more whittle down the character count, and the deaths are brought to life through some effectively gruesome practical effects. The standout for my money is the atypical kill captured in the photo above — it’s a grueling, slow carve that left me audibly smiling. It’s mean, painful, and gorgeous, and I don’t feel at all terrible for loving it.

The Furies has its frustrations — it even features my least favorite horror trope of a protagonist accidentally killing a friendly — but its gory details, outdoor setting, and fairly fresh narrative threads help it overcome the negatives. Here’s hoping a sequel continues the story and addresses some of the problems by tying itself even tighter to the idea of women raining vengeance down on all the bastards.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs October 17th through the 25th.

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