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Andrew Phillips
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Edmonton, AB
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Revenge (2018)

I noticed that this film received some fairly positive reviews when it played at What The Fest?!, so I decided to watch it despite not being into torture porn. I typically avoid the whole 'I Spit On Your Grave' rape-revenge sub-genre. So, in reading this review, be aware that I am probably not the target demographic for this film.

But, while I'm writing this, here's why I don't enjoy this particular sub-genre: I don't tend to be edified by watching women being abused, even if the film effectively telegraphs that the victim will soon have "a roaring rampage of revenge." Cruel, creative vengeance neither heals nor negates the original cruelty, and I would even argue that what these three brutal men turn Jen into might even count as a secondary affront to her person. It's bad enough that Jen is raped and abused (and this is hardly a spoiler if you know this sub-genre), but Jen is also transformed (partly by necessity) into a murderous predator.

Is it possible to cheer Jen's ultimate vengeance while also being horrified by the fact that she has allowed these three sociopaths to transform her into, essentially, what they are? Maybe. But I get too hung up on the latter to be able to enjoy the former.

This film is kind of odd in the way that Jen's physicality is filmed. Perhaps a lot of rape-revenge films do this, but it's oddly schizophrenic. For the first half of the film, we get countless half-naked torso and butt shots (almost to the point where Jen is effectively depersonalized). And then, when she begins to fight back, she is suddenly filmed as though she is Rambo. I get that a key transformation has occurred, but through whose perspective are we "seeing" Jen in these two modes? If we are meant to see her through the eyes of the three men for the first half, then from whose perspective is Jen being presented in the second half? Can a film be half "male gazes" and half "hero shots", and still be coherent?

And what does it mean that the final male quarry spends all of his scenes at the end of the film in the nude? Is it a wry comment on how a typical "final girl" would likely spend this section of a slasher film? If so, it's pretty smart, but I foster some suspicion that it wasn't entirely purposeful.

Truth be told, the first half of this film is so much better than the second. I really liked all the artsy little cut-aways to the slowly rotting apple and the ant, or the close-ups on Dimitry chomping his marshmallow chocolate bar in slow-mo.

The back half of this film lacks all these fun, creative touches, when it really could have used them. And, yeah, I do remember the dream-sequence-within-a-dream-sequence, but that was just hackey. And, wow, that ShopClubUSA TV gag at the end went on far too long.

But as much as I dislike this sub-genre, I did enjoy watching Stan deal with that shard of glass in his foot.

On a practical level, though, I could not overlook all the sheer ridiculousness in this film. I tried. I seriously tried. But:

  • A back-flip off a 48-foot cliff that ends with someone fricking impaled on a tree should not have been survivable.
  • Jen, are you really going to try to free yourself by lighting the tree on fire in order to weaken the trunk? Because there are countless ways in which that could have backfired on you. Get it? Back... fired?
  • The human body only contains a gallon and a half of blood, and you can only lose 35% of that before you go into shock. But this film seriously wants to paint every environment with the stuff.
  • Battlefield cauterization might work for a flesh wound, but not for a giant puncture wound through the center of the abdomen. And it definitely wouldn't have worked with a beer can, since aluminum is an excellent thermal conductor and would radiate all of its heat away very quickly. Finally, when you're pierced through the torso by a tree trunk, there's two puncture wounds to deal with, not just one.
  • Peyote doesn't work like that. It's not an anesthetic, and it makes you less coordinated, not more. It's also a dumb drug to take in a survival situation in the desert, since it often raises your body temperature and causes excessive sweating.
  • The distance that Dimitri's corpse floated in that lake in the space of one night was just silly.
  • Seriously, Jen. Take a few practice shots when you come into possession of a new gun. It'll help you with the kickback.

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