Note: Contains spoilers for Wounds.
Netflix’s Wounds opens with a quote from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness about the jungle’s influence on Kurtz:
“It had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception… and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core.”
Like Kurtz is changed into a ruthless tyrant by the jungle, bartender Will (Armie Hammer) is changed by a smartphone in Wounds. But does Will’s story have a happier ending than Kurtz’s?
We’re about to get under the skin of Wounds with some serious spoilers, so look away now if you haven’t seen it yet.
After a bar brawl that sees regular Eric (Brad William Henke) stabbed through the cheek, Will finds a phone left behind by a group of group of underage drinkers. If this weren’t a horror movie, he’d have left it at the bar and let them pick it up. The end.
But this is a horror movie, so he takes it home and works out how to unlock it. As soon as he does it, he gets some ominous messages from someone called Garrett: “I think something’s here with me… We shouldn’t have messed with those books! I’m scared… It’s that f**king thing from the tunnel.”
Will thinks Garrett is messing with him, so he leaves the phone on the table and goes to bed. However, when he wakes up in the morning and his girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) sees it, she notices that he’s received a photo of blood and teeth. Grim.
The messages on the phone get increasingly dark and taunt Will about “pretty pics”, leading him to find some photos of a decapitated head on the phone. In the background is a book called The Translation of Wounds (remember this, it’s important).
Will can’t resist anymore, so he phones Garrett and when he does so, all he hears is so piercing static.
As he’s driving to the police station to tell them everything, he receives another message that says he’s “been chosen” and the phone turns into a big bug thing, so he drops it and a mysterious person picks it up.
Naturally, the police don’t believe Will’s story without the evidence and later on, Will experiences a nightmare (we think) of Garrett in his kitchen.
“There was a ritual. We opened a portal. Something came and possessed us. You called it into your home. Now it sees you are the perfect vessel for more. It is in your bedroom right now staring at you as you sleep,” he says.
As Will starts to lose his grip on reality, he imagines that a wound under his armpit has a bug in it, starts to suspect that Carrie is having an affair with her teacher and experiences random flashes of the decapitated heads of anyone who wrongs him.
Will discovers that Carrie’s been looking into Garrett and it turns out that he posted on an online forum about visions of a tunnel after studying The Translation of Wounds, and someone replied that it’s about a “Gnostic ritual of human sacrifice”.
Gnosticism is a collection of ancient religious beliefs that posit – among other things – that matter is evil, and salvation can be gained through secret knowledge that frees the “divine spark” and allows the spirit to reach divinity.
In Wounds, the fictional book The Translation of Wounds (told you it was important) gives “alleged teachings on the use of a wound to transcend physical boundaries and connect with higher beings for power and enlightenment”.
Basically, an open wound can be used to open a “gateway to Plemora, or the spiritual universe, and allows one to summon aeons – entities or celestial beings in Gnostic terminology – and harvest their power and energy”.
The problem for Will is that, in classic horror-movie fashion, it appears that whatever Garrett brought through from the spiritual universe has a more sinister purpose.
Carrie becomes fixated on the image of a tunnel on her laptop, with Will coming home from the bar to discover that she’s been sitting there for hours and has no idea why.
Just when it seems like Will’s descent will end badly for Carrie, the pair break up and she kicks him out of the house: “You are a mock person. You’re just a body.”
This is pretty much the breaking point for Will. He quits his job and tries to get together with Alicia, but she tells him over the phone that she’s in love with her boyfriend and “trying to fix my life”. Ouch.
Will’s in Eric’s (you remember, the bar regular who got stabbed in the cheek at the start) apartment at this point, thinking that he can stay there now that Carrie has kicked him out.
But Eric refuses to let him stay, although he does have a “present” to give to Will from “those freaks”. Will finds the original phone he lost, but there’s a message that says the present is actually “wrapped in flesh”.
“Are you the wrapping? You can feel it moving around in there. Can’t you?” Will tells Eric as he holds him down and phones Garrett’s number. As screaming and static fills the apartment, cockroaches swarm from everywhere and cover the screen as Will places his mouth over Eric’s cheek wound.
We don’t fully see what happens next, but before the camera cuts to black, something (with an eye, no less) comes out of Eric’s cheek into Will’s mouth.
So what’s that all about, then?
Well if we assume everything we saw happened and wasn’t all just figments of Will’s imagination, then the ending shows that whatever the ritual Garrett and co did worked – and Will was harvesting the “power and energy” from a celestial being at the end.
Will wants whatever it is coming out of Garrett to “fix” him and “make me whole”, but given that whatever celestial being it is was watching Will and Carrie as they slept, we doubt it will end happily for him.
On the surface, Will might seem like a nice and normal guy to be around, but his exposure to this being just highlights the fact that, like Carrie says, inside he’s “all worms”.
“When it comes to Wounds, Will doesn’t really find any redemption in the end, which was done on purpose,” director Babak Anvari told Refinery29. “Inside, Will is hiding something really shallow and hollow. Once he comes across this cellphone, this charm drops. As his life turns upside down, that mask starts to slide off and he exposes his true self.”
As for the ending, Anvari said that he wanted it to be a “conversation starter” as the whole movie is about Will getting to this point and “not what happens afterwards”.
“He doesn’t know where he is anymore in life. He decides to dive into something he doesn’t really understand, this force he doesn’t get. He wants something to define him and his existence,” he added.
Probably should have chosen a better thing to define his life, to be honest.
Wounds is now available to watch on Netflix in the UK and Hulu in the US.
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