Described by its own director Coralie Fargeat as “Kill Bill meets Lara Croft”, Revenge is a blood drenched tale of female retribution, raw survival, and violent justice.
Married high flier Richard and his secret girlfriend, Jen (played by Rings’ Matilda Lutz), are enjoying some alone time in a remote desert mansion, when Richard’s creepy hunting mates turn up early for a planned shooting trip, awkwardly uncovering his infidelity, and hungrily ogling Jen like the last chop in the butcher’s shop window.
After being brutally raped by Stan, whilst Dimitri stares dumbly on, threatening Richard to do something about it, lest she out herself to his wife, Richard takes matters into his own hands, pushing Jen off a cliff and on to a gnarled, dried out tree stump. Problem solved, they think. Until they come back later on to find the tree stump a pile of ashes, and their Final Girl, well, Only Girl, nowhere to be seen. Jen has un-impaled herself by burning down the stump, and so begins the brutal, gore-soaked game of cat and mouse that sees Jen exacting her revenge.
Whilst it’s quite easy to compare Revenge to the almost inexhaustible stockpile of female revenge films from the last 30 years (and further back, of course) like I Spit On Your Grave, Switchblade Romance, Hush, Martyrs, Baise-Moi, The Hills Have Eyes, You’re Next etc., Revenge presents a visually fresh take on the genre. A painkilling peyote trip, along with Jen’s hallucinogenic lapses in concentration giving things a psychedelic edge, and the jarring synth soundtrack making for somehow even more uncomfortable viewing, that is if watching someone pull half a tree out their abdomen and cauterise it with a dirty old beer can isn’t uncomfortable enough for you?
It’s true that some of the visual metaphors of rebirth come across as a touch obvious, the resurrection in flame, an accidental phoenix branding, rising from filthy water to dispatch one of her attackers (and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for you, because you already KNOW they get dispatched), and true that Jen isn’t exactly likeable as a character until you just hate her less than the repulsive rapist and his two cowardly enablers, in the end, Revenge successfully forces you to look beyond those shades of a lack of confidence, and ultimately embrace it as a refreshingly female, honest little debut. Whilst we begin having to view Jen as the less than honourable men hell-bent on wiping her out do, as a lollipop sucking, home wrecking, Hollywood-bound Lolita type, we end the film (hopefully) finding her all the more desirable for the grit, guts, and scars she’s accumulated saving herself from a fate it might have been pretty easy to accept and succumb to in the filthy desert heat.
Everyone loves seeing people get what they deserve, just don’t watch it whilst you’re eating your tea. Sophie Francois