From writer/director Tony D’Aquino, The Furies follows Kayla (Airlie Dodds, Killing Ground) as she wakes up alone, in a box, in the middle of the Australian outback. She soon discovers that she’s not as alone as she had initially thought — there are other young women all on the run from a collective of hulking masked men who are hunting them down one by one.
It feels like a familiar concept, but The Furies brings enough blood and guts to the table that it all evens out. The film is chock-full of gnarly practical effects and clever character designs that pay homage to some of the great killers in horror. Visually, the film has that same frantic, sun-scorched quality as visceral slasher classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and it works to heighten the tension. There are no shadows to hide behind here.
One thing that D’Aquino did not pull from the slasher films of yore is the hyper-sexualization of their female characters. In The Furies, the focus is solely on our leading women, who always remain fully dressed and in uncompromised positions. There’s never any discussion of boyfriends coming to save them or romantic partners who might miss them; the film absolutely smashes the Bechdel test. As a female horror fan, it’s good to see a group of young female characters with distinct personalities, flaws, and fears — particularly in a film where they’re being hunted down as prey. It would be far too easy to slip into the trap of triviality, but D’Aquino steers clear.
The film’s titular Furies — in Greco-Roman mythology — were the chthonic goddesses of vengeance, each with their own distinct role. We can see the characteristics of the three Furies represented in the film’s characters, sealing their fate as the story unfolds. It’s a lovely nod to the mythology while keeping the creative focus on the classic horror elements.
One of the film’s hiccups is the plot. It’s not particularly complex, but the somewhat incomplete explanation ends up just overcomplicating the whole ordeal. There are unanswered questions, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing — sometimes it’s better to leave it up to interpretation — but the ends feel a bit too loose for it to be a nice tight finish. It sets up a conclusion that has a lot of built up energy, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
Performance wise, The Furies gets exactly what it needs from its actors. Dodds as Kayla dives head-first into the role, sinking her teeth into every scrap of meat she can find. Taylor Ferguson (Glitch) only has limited screen time as Sheena, but she makes a big impression. The character of Rose, however, (Linda Ngo, Mako Mermaids) is perhaps a bit heavy-handed for the purpose she has to serve. She’s a bit too childish, and it’s a little on-the-nose.
When we first meet Kayla, she holds herself in a state of timid unease; she’s reluctant to indulge in a bit of anarchic fun as her best friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans, My Life is Murder) goads her on. It builds her as a self-restrained character who makes excuses for herself. She’s not one to joyously scream at the top of her lungs. Once both Maddie and Kayla are abducted and brought into this battle royale nightmare, we see Kayla gradually letting herself — letting everything — go.
Kayla is determined to find her friend and get the hell out; in order to survive, she pushes herself beyond what she could possibly imagine. The strength she finds within herself is a dramatic shift away from the Kayla we met at the beginning of the film. As with any classic Final Girl, she walks through fire and comes out on the other side a changed woman. She’s shaped by her trauma, but she finds a way to harness that fury.
For even the pickiest of gore hounds, The Furies delivers some truly satisfying effects. One scene in particular that involves an axe had me clenching in my seat (and I was so happy about it). D’Aquino lingers on the action, selling the hell out of every drop of blood. In cooperation, the foley work and sound effects are maximized for the ultimate cringe factor. Though the more gruesome aspects are used economically, there are some memorable moments that make it worthwhile.
The Furies is a blood-drenched female-focused take on the hunter-and-hunted subgenre that plucks out the tired tropes of classic slashers. It’s an homage to horror that works hard for its scares, even though it can get a bit bogged down by its own ideas. But if you’re looking for a night of tension and pristine practical effects, pop this one on. It just might kill your expectations.