If you are familiar with I Spit on Your Grave, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and other grindhouse offerings, then you might have heard of Director Coralie Fargeat’s French film, Revenge. The premise is, of course, what one might expect from these types of female-centric revenge films – Guy rapes girl. Guy kills girl. Guy assumes she is dead, but she isn’t and thus, she then goes on to kill the ever-loving shit out of everyone involved in the horrible act.
More specifically, the movie starts off with Jen (played by Matilda Lutz) being taken by her undercover boyfriend, Richard (Kevin Janssens) deep into the Moroccan dessert. He is there to conduct “business” (of course it is of the nefarious type) and she is there to be his sexual companion for the weekend. Soon they are joined by his buddies/underlings Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede) and Stan (Vincent Colombe), who give off creepy vibes. Especially Stan who openly eyeballs Jen through the glass window. Later that night, drinks are poured, and Jen ends up dancing for the men, and then giving a special performance for Richard and then for Stan, which clearly turns him on even more.
Obviously, this is really a play towards the male gaze. What might be a little more unsettling is that this works to frame what happens next. While Richard is out, Stan rapes her while Dimitri is told to either “join in” or leave. Prior to his decision there is a zoomed in view of his lips while he is eating a candy bar. It’s incredibly gross. He finally steps outside the room and turns the music up. After Stan finishes, Jen is very rightfully distressed but when she tells her boyfriend, Richard he decides paying her off would be better. Jen refuses and soon there’s the scene (shown in the trailers) of Jen being pushed off a cliff and somehow, someway she survives. That’s when she gets…wait for it. Her Revenge.
The plot is extremely sparse. Other than the above, the rest of the movie is about Jen working to pick them off one by one. No spoilers, but each death is as deeply satisfying as the next. Despite the thinness of the storyline, it’s actually fairly enjoyable. Even the victim-blaming seems to be subverted – it’s the reversal of the expected between prey and predator, cat and mouse…you get the idea.
There’s nudity of both the female and male variety, whichever tickles your fancy, and enough gore to satisfy even the most die-hard grindhouse fan. To that end, a lot of the gore is pretty innovative. There’s the trailer scene, for example, when Jen had to figure out how to get down from a tree after being impaled by it. Another in which she had to cauterize a wound. In many ways, she’s like if Lara Croft was a sugar baby and had a penchant for dropping mollies. It’s entertaining to watch her survive.
What also struck me about this movie is that Fargeat seemed to put a lot of work into the visuals overall, aside from the gore. Duality, for example is played around with. There’s scenes which counter the rape versus murder, weakness versus strength, and so forth. Moreover, Fargeat also plays around with apple metaphors which is not only insightful (equate it to the “Forbidden Fruit” and see how it changes throughout), but it’s a cool visual que into certain character’s interiority. There’s also a shift in colors, bubble gum pinks and blues, to more dark browns and oranges, that works well to showcase Jen’s mental state.
There is some debate about the timing of the piece, especially during movements like #metoo and more sexual abuse scandals coming to light. I’ll let you be the judge of that, but I would be lying if I didn’t say some movements in the film didn’t give me pause. While Revenge might not be a movie you just have to see, for a grindhouse film it isn’t too bad. It’s certainly worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre.