The rape/revenge sub-genre of horror is a muddied mess of exploitation, ill conceived social commentary and unnecessarily gratuitous rape scenes. And, for better or worse, I am always on board to watch one of these films because once in a while, someone gets it really, really right. Revenge is one of those films. Writer/director Coralie Fargeat has spectacularly announced her arrival on the horror scene with a feature debut that is not just another notch in the French Extremism belt, but a timely commentary on gender politics.
Jen (Matilda Lutz) has arrived via helicopter with her boyfriend, Richard, to a secluded house in the desert. With it’s candy colored floor to ceiling windows and stark, white interior, it’s a luxurious jewel box in the middle of nowhere. Wearing her plastic framed sunglasses, neon pink star earrings and sucking provocatively on a lollipop, Jen is Lolita 2017. She is young, taut, tan and fully aware of the effect that she has on men. Richard had hoped to spend two days with Jen and then indulge in a hunting expedition with his friends Stan and Dimitri, but Stan and Dimitri mess that all up when they arrive early and find Jen scantily clad in the living room. Because Richard is married, the other men seem to get the idea that she is available to all of them. After a night of partying, Stan believes that Jen is into him and he is all too eager to spend time with her while Richard is away. When it becomes clear that Jen has no interest in him, Stan becomes aggressive, demeaning and threatening and we can all guess where this is heading. Fargeat spares us the token gratuitous rape scene in favor of making the most of blood curdling screams and some clever shots that utilize those floor to ceiling windows.
Things actually get worse for Jen from here and a series of events all lead up to her surviving an impossible to survive situation. It’s easy to let this technicality go, though, because it helps lend an almost supernatural strength to Jen. A literal phoenix rising from the ashes, she is going to turn the tables on the three men who believe they will just dispose of her body like another carcass on their hunting trip.
The cat and mouse game that ensues is suspenseful, gory and very satisfying. Fargeat makes the most of the desert landscape, gifts us with some beautiful wide angle shots, presents a drug induced self surgery scene that doesn’t feel gimmicky and she never skimps on the blood. All of the kill scenes in the film are awesome and there is even a scene that has caused some viewers to become ill. With a literal blood soaked finale, Revenge is the kind of film that makes you sit up and take notice.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont