Rape/revenge films have always been a conundrum of horror movies. No matter how satisfying the revenge is, they still have to feature a woman getting raped. While some films like I Spit On Your Grave and the Death Wish movies arguably exploit the rape scene as something titillating for male viewers, even the more tasteful ones beg the question: Is violent revenge really the empowering follow-up to a sex crime? Revenge doesn’t necessarily have the answer but it seems conscious of the question.
Richard (Kevin Janssens) brings his mistress Jen (Matilda Lutz) on a weekend trip with his friends Dimitri (Vincent Colombe) and Stan (Guillaume Bouchede). While Richard is out, Stan rapes Jen. Since reporting Stan will get Richard caught with his wife, he offers to send Jen away with some money. When Jen refuses, Richard leaves her for dead.
They murder Jen viciously. In a twist that could only happen in a movie, she survives, because it’s awesome. If some A-holes push their rape victim off a cliff I sure as hell want to see it miss vital organs so she can reap vengeance. Well, I really want to see A-holes stop raping women at all, but I did agree to see a movie called Revenge.
Revenge certainly conveys the agony of Jen rescuing herself through the pain. Repairing herself Rambo style even inadvertently brands a superhero symbol onto her skin.
Writer/director Coralie Fargeat and cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert shoot Revenge well with steady frames that trap Jen in this confrontation. More complex shots dramatize how Dimitri leaves Jennifer alone with Stan. Later, it gives you all the geography of the pursuits in the wilderness or confined quarters. One of my favorite shots is a closeup of blood drops with an ant for scale!
The kills get longer and more drawn out. Equal parts suspense and wearing each other down, there’s only three villains so they fill the running time. And these are not expert killers on either side. There are no clean shots. They’re knock down drag out fights, drenched in blood.
Revenge exploits Richard’s body more than Jen. She’s scanitly clad but Richard goes full frontal. That’s one way to even the score cinematically, but the movie is still predicated on sexual assault. I’m not calling for an end to rape/revenge films. As long as there is rape it’s a subject we have to explore. I’m just dealing with my conundrum as a viewer, which is inherently different than any female viewer would have too.
I definitely found Jen’s Revenge satisfying. I was on board for the journey. After the Sundance Midnight screenings, you’ll be able to see Revenge for yourself on Shudder.