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CUFF 2018 review: Revenge

Monday 23rd, April 2018 / 11:52
By Matthew Nygren

CALGARY – The gritty genre of rape-revenge has existed for decades, and it’s usually only appreciated by grindhouse enthusiasts that enjoy horror and gore, but the debut feature from French writer/director Coralie Fargeat might just prove that with the right skill and ingenuity, a much wider audience can find entertainment in the extreme.

Richard (Kevin Janssens) and and his young mistress Jen (Matilda Lutz) are enjoying a romantic weekend at a secluded house in the desert, entertaining themselves with lust and luxuries. But when two of Richard’s brutish hunting buddies make a surprise arrival, their plans are altered. At first it seems like the partying will continue, but the depravity of Richard’s friends eventually comes to the surface when they are left alone with Jen, and after one horrible turning point she is raped and left terrified.

Surprisingly, Richard doesn’t comfort Jen, and instead decides it would be simpler to betray her rather than deal with what he deems a trivial problem. Now scared for her life, Jen races into the desert to escape, but the three men find her and throw her from a cliff, effectively leaving her there to die.

By the film’s own title we have a general idea of what’s going to come next, but it’s rare to see a film done so stylishly and with such a fierceness that it seemed to effortlessly breath new life into a plot device as old and simple as revenge.

When the three men realize that Jen’s still alive they begin hunting her, equipped with high caliber rifles. But our heroine has been baptized in tears, grime and blood, and she musters all her strength and raw desire to survive so that she can fight back. The hunters soon become the hunted.

The excessive amounts of bloodshed and carnage is probably not for everyone, but Fargeat delivers the vicious violence with a shameless touch of the absurd, making it easy to find yourself cheering for each wound Jen inflicts on her antagonists. There’s even some laudable dark humor here that is a pleasant surprise, and an urgent energy of pulsing synth music that colourfully accentuates the tension.

Revenge is a violent thriller that rises above much of what the genre has to offer, because there’s enough sophistication and creativity to inject some beauty into the nightmare. The film itself is just as vigorous, fearless and uncanny as the heroine’s own cathartic journey for retribution.

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