We’ve been here before … and often. A group of people who mostly don’t know each other are snatched from their daily lives and wake up in an arena where they play an elimination game for the benefit of (as Cube had it) ‘rich sickos’ watching from the comfort of evil lairs. Specifically, The Furies feels like a mashup of The Condemned, Escape Room and Raze, but it has enough new angles to keep audiences engaged. This Australian film from writer-director Tony D’Aquino is in a sub-category of ‘Most Dangerous Game’ films where the rules are quite complicated, and the heroine has to figure them out in order to make it to the finishing line. In the process, she has to struggle with ethical issues encapsulated in the slogan ‘we’re easier to kill than they are’.
Friends Kayla (Airlie Dodds), an epileptic and (perhaps therefore) risk-averse in the extreme, and Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), a rule-breaker who is spray-painting ‘fuck patriarchy’ in an underpass, have a minor squabble/break-up, and are snatched by goons. Kayla wakes up, with a vague memory of having an eye operation, in a box in the woods, marked Beauty # 6. Soon, she encounters other Beauties – young women her age, of varying degrees of toughness – who are stalked by an equal number of Beasts – mute men in slasher masks and overalls wielding a variety of edged weapons. The Beasts are out to slaughter the Beauties, in old-fashioned gory splatter movie practical effects, but the game has been rigged so that the women aren’t encouraged to band together to fight back, and this puts caring Kayla in a quandary as she falls in with ruthless Sheena (Taylor Ferguson) and neuroatypical Rose (Linda Ngo) while prioritising her search for Maddie.
Kayla’s epilepsy imperils her at inconvenient times, but also interferes with what she realises is an eye implant – recording her feed for a VR audience – while the slightly contradictory specifics of Rose’s condition also turn out to be as much survival aide as handicap. The setting – a former wilderness mining camp turned tourist attraction turned killing ground – is well-used, and the action is solidly staged, but the strength of the film is in its complicated character interactions, which turn the screws on the basic run-from-the-monster situation. While the Beauties are a varied lot, the Beasts are pretty much interchangeable – despite their range of archetypal yet striking horror movie masks.