Review by Thad Timothy; Writer, Cult Classic Horror
Starring: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède
Written and Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Writer director Coralie Fargeat makes a stunning debut with the rape-revenge survival thriller ‘Revenge.’
While rape-revenge films have become somewhat tedious over the years, Fargeat’s unique female perspective offers a refreshing new take on the tired, male-driven subgenre made popular by such films as The Last House on the Left (1972) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978). While not nearly as shocking or brutal as the aforementioned films, Revenge has much to offer in way of style, cinematography, and character development…and there are plenty of moments that will make you squirm.
Revenge tells the story of starry-eyed Jennifer (Lutz), a young woman who’s dreams of Hollywood stardom and notoriety have led her into the arms of the wealthy, and married, Richard (Janssens). While retreating to his secluded desert home for an upcoming annual hunting trip, Richard flies his mistress (Jennifer) in via helicopter for a weekend of lustful indulgence. When his two hunting partners arrive a day early, Richard’s infidelity is exposed and his plans for a carefree weekend are interrupted. After a fun night of partying, Jennifer wakes up to find that Richard has left her in the company of his hunting partners, Stan (Colombe) and Dimitri (Bouchède), while he is away on an errand. Convinced a shared dance the night before meant something more, Stan confronts Jennifer and propositions her with sex. When his advances are met with opposition, Stan accuses Jennifer of coming onto him and proceeds to force himself onto her. At this point, Dimitri enters the room and is made immediately aware of Stan’s intentions. After a moment of consideration for Dimitri, and of hope for Jennifer, Dimitri exits the room and closes the door behind him. As Stan continues his assault on Jennifer, Dimitri turns the television volume up to drown out her pleading cries for help. When Richard returns and learns of the heinous act he offers to pay Jennifer a large sum of money to forget the incident, but her refusal to accept the offer results in a harrowing chase and another act of unspeakable violence against her. Left for dead in the desert, Jennifer finds the inner strength to rise from the ashes and seek bloody vengeance upon her attackers.
I have never been fond of rape-revenge films because they tend to focus more on rape than revenge. It’s difficult for me to view these films as empowering to women when the majority of them choose to focus on their dehumanization. While I enjoyed the last fifteen minutes of retribution in these films, they were never worth the 60 minutes of brutality that came first. For this reason I refrained from watching Revenge for nearly a year and had it not been for the continuous buzz surrounding it, I may not have watched it at all. Had that have been the case I would have missed out on one of 2018’s best films and, in my opinion, the reigning champion of its subgenre.
Revenge is loaded with remarkable tension, heavy black humor and lots of blood and features a fierce breakthrough performance by actress Matilda Lutz. More than a rape and revenge tale, Revenge is a story of survival and rebirth. The rape is portrayed as an act of violence inspired by insecurity and feelings of inadequacy and is approached in a way that gives it purpose but does not allow it to become the focal point of the story. While still disturbing in nature, the rape in this film happens mostly off-screen and serves more as a catalyst for the lead characters inevitable transformation than a plea for shock and awe.
Visceral, unrelenting, and visually stunning, Revenge soars high above its predecessors, thus, taking its subgenre to new heights and perhaps changing its landscape for years to come.
*Revenge is currently available on Blu-Ray & DVD and for streaming on Shudder
- According to director Coralie Fargeat, the prop team often ran out of blood due to the high volume used in the film.
- Matilda Lutz played the lead character, Julia, in the Rings (2017)
- Fargeat named the films of David Cronenberg as references for the film when pitching to potential financiers. She also named Drive (2011) & Under the Skin (2013).
- The music was inspired by the works of John Carpenter, Etienne Jaumet, and Thomas Bangalter.
- Won the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Calgary Underground Film Festival.
- The themes of rebirth and transformation are subtly referenced throughout the film