A group of strangers wake up disoriented in the middle of an ominously uninhabited landscape, with no idea where they are or any memory of how they got there. While you could easily assume that I’m talking about the premise of 2010’s Predators, you’d be wrong: the film that I’m describing takes place in a far more dangerous setting—the Australian wilderness. But in Tony D’Aquino’s bonkers slasher-nostalgia homage The Furies (2019) (which recently screened at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival), you need to worry about more than just spiders, snakes, and hungry dingoes.
The film opens with a young, unnamed woman being attacked by a masked, armed assailant in a landscape full of barren trees, only to be “rescued” by another—an obvious piece of foreshadowing for our main character, a young woman named Kayla (Airlie Dodds), whom we meet in the next scene. We learn that Kayla suffers from seizures and will shortly head to university. Her friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans) will not be following her there, we soon discover, and the two have a falling-out before both are abducted.
Kayla then wakes up to blaring sirens, trapped in an enclosed box. Upon exiting, she finds herself in the same wilderness we witnessed in the opening scene. She soon discovers several other young women who’ve been similarly taken, but they are not the only people wandering the forest—for every unarmed abductee, there is a masked hunter wielding a deadly tool.
Let the games begin.
The Furies pays gleeful homage to the slasher flicks of the 1980s with its killer costuming, gory and inventive kills, and final girl narrative, but also adds a soupçon of science fiction into the mix. Throughout the film, Kayla slowly pieces together an explanation of how the game works, aided by her epilepsy which somehow interacts with the surgical modifications performed on her during her abduction and allows her to see through the eyes of a hunter (if only for brief periods).
While the film makes only the slightest token gestures at giving its lead character depth, the weak writing may be easily forgiven by audiences eager for over-the-top gore and a strong dose of menace. The Furies is not a film fuelled by plot; Kayla’s only real goal is to locate and save Maddie, the other girls are focused purely on their own survival, and there are some moments of tension once a particular detail of the game plan comes to light and pits several survivors against one another. Where this film excels, however, is in its action. The Furies offers a number of kills that made this semi-jaded horror fan nearly squirm out of her seat. Cheer on your favourite murderer or place bets on the next victim to fall—the film provides some decent fun if you don’t take it too seriously.
Score: 5 out of 10 sinister masks.