Film Reviews

Revenge (2018) – Standard Edition Blu-ray Review

The rape revenge genre is one that isn’t often received well. Rape is a horrific experience that people go through all too often, and is something that women and femme presenting people experience in disproportionate numbers. Putting that on film as entertainment is always risky, as it can easily become a lurid spectacle thrown in to disturb the viewer. In the rape revenge genre it’s often used as a catalyst; the reason why the female protagonist has turned to violence against her attackers.

The awful truth of it is that rape victims are further victimised when they come forward. There will be accusations of it being made up, and excuses made as to the reasons it happened such as “Look at what they were wearing”, “They were being provocative”, or “They were asking for it”. Rape seems to be the one crime where the perpetrator admitting they were tempted into doing it by their own lack of morals is a perfectly valid excuse that ends with them getting away with it. And thus, revenge seems to be the place where victims feel that they can get their true justice in these kinds of movies, because in the real world, sexual assault victims hardly ever get that justice.

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Revenge is almost immediately different from a lot of the other films in this genre, films such as I Spit on Your Grave, because it has a female director, Coralie Fargeat. With a woman writing and directing a film about an issue that often affects women, you’d expect that Revenge would bring something new to the table, some different ingredient that makes it stand out. Unfortunately, it feels no different from any other overly gory revenge movie on the market.

The film tells the story of Jen (Matilda Lutz), an incredibly pretty and hyper-confident young woman having an extra-marital affair with Richard (Kevin Janssens). Flying out to a remote mansion in the middle of the desert, the two of them settle in for a couple of days of sun and sex. Jen is fully aware that Richard is married, but enjoys the expensive lifestyle and fun she has as his mistress, and seems happy to be there. However, Richard’s two friends Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) arrive at the house a day early.

The three men had been intending to go hunting for the week, the cover Richard was using to spend some time with Jen, and the two friends weren’t supposed to learn about Jen’s existence. With the secret out, the four of them spend the night partying, drinking and taking drugs. The next day, whilst Richard is out, Stan, who feels that Jen was coming onto him the night before, feels owed, and viciously rapes her. Dimitri, who starts off watching, eventually just leaves, letting his friend assault her.

When Richard returns and learns what happened, he arranges a new job for Jen in Canada, and offers her a lump sum of cash, trying to get rid of her and buy her silence after the attack. When Jen refuses, and threatens to tell his wife, Richard hits her, causing Jen to run out into the desert. Cornering her on a cliff, the three men push her off, where she’s impaled on a tree. Thinking her dead, they leave to carry on with their trip. However, Jen survives the fall, and set out to get revenge on the men that wronged her.

The plot for Revenge doesn’t really feel like anything new; a woman in a remote location around evil men, who gets abused and assaulted and turns to violence feels like something I’ve seen more than once. Perhaps the main thing about the film that sets it apart is the location, with the vast desert environment feeling visually different from other movies in the genre. However, the actual substance of the movie feels pretty standard. Despite being directed by a woman, the camera feels very leering, and the most common shots in the movie are ones of Jen’s scantily clad rear. There are a few moments of full nudity thrown in there too, with the rare inclusion of frontal male nudity. Despite that, however, it does feel overly lecherous at times, especially when lingering on Jen. It does feel like the film is trying to sexualise her at times, as if trying to justify somehow what happens to her, in that “Look at what she’s wearing” kind of mindset.

The violence in the film feels kind of standard too. There’s not a huge amount here that makes it feel bold or interesting, and it’s mostly Jen hunting her attackers down with a gun. It’s bloody and gory, and the final confrontation is splattered in blood, but there’s nothing as visceral or shocking as say the penis removal scene in I Spit on Your Grave to make the violence in the film memorable or worthy of particular note. The film also comes across as a bit heavy handed with its metaphors. After being impaled on the tree, Jen is forced to use her lighter to burn the wood under her in order to break it, emerging from the flames. Later on, she uses an old beer can branded with a phoenix to cauterise her wound, branding herself with both an image of the bird and the literal word phoenix – just in case you missed the metaphor of her coming out of the fire a changed woman earlier in the movie.

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There are a few extras on the new release, including an audio commentary by author and critic Kat Ellinger, an interview with the director, an interview with one of the cast, an interview with the composer, and an interview with the cinematographer. They’re decent enough extras, and offer some insight into the making of the film, but much like the movie itself they feel kind of standard with nothing of much note to really draw you in.

Revenge is a bloody and violent rape revenge film that doesn’t really seem to bring anything new to the genre. If you’re a fan of these kinds of movies you’ll probably enjoy it, but if you’re hoping that it will be doing something innovative it might fail to live up to expectations.

Revenge is out on Standard Edition Blu-ray on 21st November from Second Sight Films.

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