By Scott Dorward
Fingers (USA, 2019)
From previous attempts at the October Horror Movie Challenge, I know I flag in the last week. It pays to schedule some high energy, funny, or just plain weird films around this time. From the snippets I’d seen about Fingers, it looked more like a black comedy than a horror film. Still, its presence on Shudder’s catalogue gave me all the excuse I needed to include it. Let’s see if it offers enough weirdness to shake me awake.
Amanda, a manager at a small tech company, is a seething mass of neuroses. In particular, she has extreme reactions when confronted by physical imperfections in others. This reaches a crisis point when one of her employees, Walter, turns up to work missing a finger.
At a friend’s recommendation, Amanda seeks help from Dr Scotty, a therapist who speaks in meaningless banalities and seems more interested in exploiting Amanda’s condition than helping her. Somehow, Amanda still manages to find meaning in Dr Scotty’s guidance, sending her down a path of obsession.
Meanwhile, Walter keeps losing more fingers. Two strange men in masks visit him regularly, snipping off a finger each time. Why is this happening? Who are these strange men? And how many people will have to suffer before Amanda finds inner peace?
Once it gets going, Fingers reminded me of the thrillers Charlie Higson published in the ’90s. Between his breakthrough as a television comedy writer/performer and his later career as YA author, Higson wrote four amazing, dark, funny crime novels that defy easy description: King of the Ants, Happy Now, Full Whack and Getting Rid of Mister Kitchen. Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame, adapted King of the Ants in 2003, with some success. If you enjoy Fingers, you should seek these books out. They occupy a similar creative space, but do so much better.
Amanda’s obsession with physical imperfections also reminded a little of Michael McDowell’s weird psychological horror novel, Toplin. While the tone of the book could scarcely be more different from Fingers, they both have protagonists driven to acts of violence by what they see as the ugliness of others.
And just a little warning: Fingers is not a film for dog lovers. There is a very cute husky and, inevitably, bad things happen to it.
Although it’s not a bad film by any means, I can imagine Fingers disappointing many viewers. It very much a black comedy, albeit a strange, nasty one. There is no conceivable reason I can see for it being tagged as a horror film on IMDB, and yet here we are. Sure, there is plenty of weirdness and bloodshed, but these are played for laughs. And not all of those laughs land.
Despite a strong, strange premise, Fingers struggles to get moving. At first, it veers all over the place, introducing characters by plunging us into the midst of their lives. It does so briskly and entertainingly enough, but it is difficult to find anything to hold onto. While there are some standout scenes, they feel untethered. The last half hour pulls everything together nicely, however, giving us plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a satisfying resolution.
The main saving grace of Fingers is its characters. Each is entertainingly ludicrous, deeply flawed and often dangerous. Jeremy Gardner (the writer/director of After Midnight and The Battery) steals the show as “Talky”, the finger-snipping, mask-wearing goon who, as his credit suggests, talks too much. He doesn’t get much screen time until around half an hour in, but the film becomes a lot more interesting once he does.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Possessor (2020)
- The Boogey Man (1980)
- Jakob’s Wife (2021)
- The Queen of Black Magic (2019)
- Cold Hell (2017)
- Seance (2021)
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
- Dachra (2018)
- Isle of the Dead (1945)
- After Midnight (2019)
- The Baby (1973)
- Hagazussa (2017)
- Frightmare (1974)
- The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
- Dave Made a Maze (2017)
- Raw (2016)
- The Old Ways (2020)
- Terror Train (1980)
- mon mon mon MONSTERS (2017)
- Sator (2019)
- Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
- The Lighthouse (2019)
- Anything For Jackson (2020)
- Warning: Do Not Play (Amjeon) (2019)
- Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
- The Field Guide to Evil (2019)
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
- The Wizard of Gore (1970)
- Fingers (2019)
- Lake Bodom (2016)
- Island of Lost Souls (1932)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!