The Furies. 2019. Directed & Written by Tony D’Aquino.
Starring Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson, Ebony Vagulans, Danielle Horvat, Tom O’Sullivan, Jessica Baker, Kaitlyn Boyé, Harriet Davies, Steve Morris, Ben Toyer, Leon Stripp, & Dean Gould.
Head Gear Films / The Film Distillers / Odin’s Eye Entertainment / Kreo Films FZ / Metrol Technology
Not Rated / 82 minutes
There’s little subtlety in Tony D’Aquino’s The Furies. It’s not a bad thing, either. Just that nobody will walk away from this contemporary slasher struggling to figure out its purpose. And, of course, it’s quite fine to leave D’Aquino’s horror film as merely a proper horror with solid action thrills. There’s Greek mythology built directly into the title itself, so digging deeper below the surface isn’t only warranted, it’s practically invited.
D’Aquino starts from a simple, familiar premise: young women are snatched off the streets to be freed in a remote forest where they’re hunted by psychopaths. There’s a Most Dangerous Game-type feel, which we’ve seen plenty of times in, and outside, the horror genre. Once the women are in the forest, things become more complex. They wake up in black boxes. There are also men in the forest wearing terrifying masks and wielding horrific weapons.
Thus begins a chase.
Nothing is as it seems. Kayla (Airlie Dodds) is one of the women who wakes up trying to figure out where she’s been taken, and why. She comes across other women, but even some of them can’t be trusted.
When the first moment of a film starts with FUCK PATRIARCHY being written in spray paint graffiti it isn’t hard to decipher what’ll follow. In the traditionally male-dominated sub-genre of the slasher— despite all the female bodies brutalised among the victim count— The Furies boils gender politics down to a simple battle between good and evil, referencing Greek myths such as the Erinyes (a.k.a The Furies) and Oedipus, as well as a passing, though important, allusion to the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. This combination of myth and fairy tale, through a lens of misogyny, turns what would’ve otherwise been a conventional, albeit still unique slasher into something more potent.
The premise alone presents an ultimate form of misogyny: men literally hunting women. It takes the predator-prey relationship so many men perpetuate in their treatment of women as objects and makes it wholly real. While Most Dangerous Game comes to mind quickly for most, the aspect of the women being let loose into the wilderness only to be hunted by men is eerily similar to methods used by the so-called “Butcher Baker,” Alaska’s own Robert Hansen— a serial killer who abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 17 women around the Anchorage area from 1971 to 1983. This sadistic connection only deepens the sense of misogyny already inherent in the plot.
There’s also an interesting look at the oppressive control men exert over women’s bodies through the eye implants Kayla discovers. “They‘re in our eyes… our heads” is a perfect line epitomising the actual sexism / misogyny men display towards women which then, inadvertently, becomes a part of women’s lives and psychology. The captured women’s implants allow men into their heads, the male gaze becoming an internal Foucaultian Panopticon embedded directly into the women’s flesh and blood— always watching, always policing.
More than the physical implant itself, male misogyny likewise becomes embedded in the hunted women. Kayla has to defend herself against Sheena once things devolve. Sheena’s threatening Kayla is symbolic of internalised misogyny. The patriarchal structure of the ‘game’ they’re playing turns Sheena against the other women, just like society does to real women, forcing them into competition against one another (by way of media and other avenues) instead of allowing them to stick together. Ultimately, Kayla has to overcome the misogyny of men and the misogyny internalised by women if she has any chance at survival.
“Either you start breaking some rules
or the rules will break you.”
The following portion of the article contains significant spoilers!
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
An immediately recognisable literary allusion in The Furies is to Beauty and the Beast, originally written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Over the years, the fairy tale has become less a cutesy story about romance between an odd pairing, more the story of female ownership— boiling it down, Beauty’s father and the Beast essentially bargain over who’ll own her, each a different form of the same patriarch. In this film, the women are delivered to the forest in boxes marked BEAUTY, and their killer counterparts emerge from boxes marked BEAST. While there’s later revealed a protector-like angle to the killers, the sexist imagery of Beauty and the Beast remains as women are interpreted here as helpless victims who will either run from their predator until they’re caught or whose protector will potentially save them.
The film’s title refers to the Erinyes, or the Furies. They were depicted in Greek mythology as chthonic deities who take vengeance on men who’ve sworn a false oath. Contemporary reassessments of the Furies show they were depicted in sexist ways. The Furies remain closely associated with female rage of any kind, often disparagingly. One of the first references to these deities in the film is when Kayla gets out of the box, discovering her eye is bleeding— this is an allusion to Hesiod‘s depiction of the Furies. Later, Kayla helps perpetuate the strength of the Erinyes by taking vengeance on those responsible for the whole ‘game’ to which she and the other women were subjected.
A less overt allusion involves Kayla tearing out her eye, along with the implant. This one’s twofold. First, the removal of an eye undeniably brings most who are familiar with Greek myth to the figure of Oedipus. Whereas Oedipus blinds himself as punishment, Kayla digs out an eye in order to get past the forest’s border— or, to see the truth of what’s behind it. Once she’s out of the forest, she’s able to track down the man responsible for the ‘game,’ and in a sense this is her seeking knowledge. This concept of losing sight, partially or fully, to gain knowledge is in line with not only Greek myth, but also other cultural mythologies, putting Kayla next to figures like Tiresias, Odin, and even Horus (even if his eye being gouged out wasn’t permanent).So, what does all the fairy tale and mythology actually MEAN?
Father Gore’s theory is linked to the finale, when Kayla turns the tables by hunting down the man running the whole ‘game.’ She finds him using a VR headset and realises the entire purpose of her terror is entertainment for sick men online. This shadowy company provides female pain as entertainment, and, like the VR experience, misogynistic / sexist Greek myths and fairy tales have also played on the pain of women throughout history as a method of entertainment.
The Furies becomes a tapestry weaved together with the patriarchal images of classic sources, made into a contemporary vision of the extremes our culture has reached by perpetuating these images as reality and societal truth rather than recognise the human cost of these ideas / images. Kayla’s experience is a fight to the death predicated on gender alone. By surviving, and dealing out vengeance, she embodies the most positive attributes of the Erinyes. More than that, her status as the genre’s typical Final Girl is subverted, elevated to an even more epic, heroic struggle representing that of so many women in everyday life who deal with a system constantly at work against them, but who refuse to be destroyed by the hatred of men.
The Furies is currently available on Shudder