Release Date: May 11, 2018
Director: Coralie Fargeat
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 108 Minutes
This is a repost of our review from What The Fest!? 2018, Revenge opens in theaters and on Shudder Friday.
Though it’s a surprise to even see this type of film in our current cultural climate, Coralie Fargeat’s feature debut Revenge, proves itself as the definitive rape-revenge film, taking into account all the sordid tropes but deconstructing them into damning critique on rape culture while retaining its exploitation roots.
Matilda Lutz stars as Jen, an American girl who accompanies her married lover, Richard (Kevin Janssens), to his desert vacation home to spend some time with him before he and his two buddies go off on a yearly hunting expedition.
After a night of passion, Jen awakes the next morning to find Richard’s two buddies have arrived, poised for a boys’ week filled with hunting and drinking. Meeting Jen, however, brings their gaze to other conquests, and, after a night of fun, one of the men propositions her for sex after Richard leaves to procure hunting licenses. Upon refusal of his advances, he begins raping her, continuing even after his friend walks in on them.
While the assault itself was not as graphic as something like I Spit on Your Grave or Irreversible, how Fargeat used sound and environmental elements like a closeup of the friend eating a candy bar, slapping his disgusting lips together or how he simply turned the volume up on the TV to drown out Jen’s cries, made the event all the more disturbing.
In its first act, cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert continuously highlights Jen’s sexuality, making sure to incorporate plenty of low angle butt shots and accentuating her revealing attire, presenting the viewer with how these men perceive her — as an object of desire, someone “asking for it.”
Richard returns to find Jen sobbing in bed and discovers what happened; rather than call the police, he throws her off a cliff, resulting in her getting impaled through the stomach on a tree branch. Miraculously, Jen survives, later using a beer can to cauterize her wounds that causes the logo — looking not dissimilar to a phoenix rising from the ashes — to be branded to her. She’s been reborn and sets out to right the men who wronged her in the most violent way possible.
From this moment, Jen’s overt sexualization is over and she’s in control; we’re no longer bound by the perspective of her perpetrators. Fargeat and Heyvaert begin empowering Jen with each meticulously framed shot, no longer exploiting their heroine.
As Jen begins dispatching the men, the film is bathed in light and accented in bright pastels, with every gory penetration of these men displayed in vivid detail and enhanced by crisp sound. Gallons of blood are spilled, much more than any human could probably lose and still function, but the carnage never felt gratuitous or unearned. Fargeat never forgets what kind of film this is and makes sure viewers don’t forget either.
Aided by an ’80s-style, synth-heavy score, Revenge excels on nearly every technical level, and while the plot fits neatly into the rape-revenge subgenre, it easily puts all others to shame. I can’t stress enough that this is a fucking bonkers movie that will have you cheering by the end and craving more. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next from Coralie Fargeat, who clearly has an eye for bold filmmaking if Revenge is any indication of what she has to come.