in Review, Shocktober

Revenge (2017)

Here we are, my final post for Shocktober 2018 aka “Shuddertober”. I can’t think of a better way to end this dive into Shudder’s extensive horror catalog then with one of their most critically acclaimed exclusives. Revenge has been hailed as a visceral, badass, feminist exploitation flick. It’s been called one of the goriest and intense films of the year. So should you believe the hype?

Revenge is a bare bones rape-revenge film. This isn’t a genre I’m a fan of though it has produced at least one other film I admire in Abel Ferrara’s 1981 cult classic Ms .45. I think it helps that the film was written and directed by a woman, Coralie Fargeat, though I can see how the film would be divisive. The razor-thin plot of Revenge follows Jen (Matilda Lutz), an American socialite—two things I didn’t know she was until I read the plot synopsis online—accompanying a wealthy douchebag named Richard (Kevin Janssens) as his mistress to his posh mansion in an undisclosed desert area. The film was shot in Morocco but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be Morocco or the United States. Jen is supposed to be American though is played by an Italian and Richard speaks French. This movie is all over the place regarding nationality and language and this helps the film build upon a sense of disorientation.

Richard’s two buddies arrive a day early for their annual hunting trip and things take a turn when one of Richard’s buddies rapes Jen while the other ignores her plea for help. The next morning Jen tries to flee the facility threatening Richard that she’s going to tell his wife about their affair. Richard calls in his chopper to take her away but then at the last second decides “Fuck that” and kicks her off a cliff where she is impaled on a tree branch. Shit. Now there’s a brutal way to get the events of the film in motion.

Jen survives her near fatal wound and frees herself by burning down the branch with a lighter. After removing the branch, cauterizing her wound with a beer can and using peyote as a sedative, Jen sets out on a revenge tour of the three men as they continue their hunting escapades blissfully unaware of what follows them. The rest of the film is a bloody, sun-bleached, battle between Jen and the men that wronged her. Needless to say this is not a film for the faint of heart.

What I appreciate about Revenge is that it’s not like it’s about a woman who turns out to be the ultimate assassin knocking out guy after guy with military-like precision. It’s just three guys taken down in sloppy, violent fashion. Jen doesn’t know how to fight or shoot a gun but she learns because she has no other choice. The results are grisly but satisfying, thanks in big part to Lutz’s gripping performance and beautiful cinematography.

I’ve heard talk about whether or not this film is truly a feminist movie. For as much as Jen gets her payback, she’s just as often sprawled out naked or half dressed in scene after scene. Whether or not this is exploitative or done for a narrative purpose I think it’s important again to note this is a film by a woman. Not some perverted thirtysomething white guy. The film is going to affect people in different ways. All I know for sure is that Revenge is a gritty thriller that’s simultaneously horrifying and therapeutic. A proud addition to any Halloween marathon and to another successful Shuddertober.