"Revenge" is bloody, disturbing, tense, and highly stylized. This is the most violent film I've seen in quite some time and I made the idiotic mistake of watching before going to sleep. I had a nightmare that someone entered my room through a sliding glass door on the deck and stood over my bed, watching me while I sensed his presence but couldn't move. I woke up in a state of mild panic, thinking about rape culture/misogyny and the pointless brutality of life.
It feels wrong to say that I loved "Revenge" - I probably wouldn't rewatch it for pleasure - but I think it's incredibly smart, important, and well-made. I can't believe it's Coralie Fargeat's debut film. French horror is super exciting right now! Julia Ducournau and Fargeat both feel like emerging auteurs and I can't wait to see what they make next.
Best time to watch:
Watch this one on a sunny day, surrounded by support animals. I'm not typically squeamish or easily scared, but this movie really cut to my core. I watched several horror films this week and "Revenge" is the only one that kept me up at night with uneasy feelings and subsequent nightmares. If you're a masochist and really want to scare the shit out of yourself, watch it alone on a dark, stormy night. Turn off the power and leave all your doors unlocked ... really throw caution to the fucking wind.
If I still lived in the same city as my friend Sydney, I would invite her over to watch this movie, "Ms. 45," and "Deliverance." Jk. We both like horror, but I don't think either of us could stomach that many rape/revenge films in a row.
RIP Zoë Lund.
Worst time to watch:
Don't watch this movie before bed unless you're a fan of the aforementioned horrific nightmares. You also should avoid watching it after smoking unless you want to spend 45 minutes compulsively checking that all doors and windows are locked and no one is hiding behind your shower curtain. There weren't even many jump scares and this is not a home invasion movie, but as the credits rolled I felt uneasy and needed confirmation that my closets were empty and my cats were safe.
Where to watch:
"Revenge" is in theaters May 11 and available for streaming on Shudder shortly after.
Jen (Matilda Lutz) accompanies her French lover on a trip to the desert. Things go awry when she meets his friends and one of them rapes her. "Revenge" is a classic rape/revenge film that both adheres to the genre and subverts it. The trailer is kind of whatever, but trust me when I say that you need to see this film.
First, I have to note that the rape in this movie does not happen on-screen. There are other visual and auditory clues that let us know how brutal it is, but we are not forced to watch. As previously mentioned in my review of "Beauty and the Dogs," I am particularly sensitive to how rape is portrayed. I'll often avoid seeing films that depict graphic sexual violence because it's just not something I want to watch. I'm not (usually) offended by it and don't believe in censorship, I just personally don't want to be subjected to art that is brutal just for brutality's sake or shock value.
Fargeat uses rape as the catalyst for her film, but in an interesting way that I don't think I've seen before. Stanley (Vincent Colombe) has Jen pushed up against the sliding glass door and it's obvious what's about to happen. (She is crying and shaking - there's no mistaking this for consensual sex.) Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) walks into the room, munching on a bag of snacks, and gaping at them. Stanley snaps in French,
"Can't you see we're busy? If you want some, come in, otherwise get lost."
The camera tracks in on Stanley, cuts, tracks in on Jen, shows a close-up of Stanley's mouth chomping on one of his treats, then cuts back to a mid-shot of him closing the door, with another cut to Jen's fallen face as she realizes that he's not going to help her. As Stanley fumbles with his pants, the camera cuts back to Dimitri right as the door closes. We hear Jen's screams as the camera follows Dimitri. As they become louder, he stops walking, appears concerned as the camera tracks in on his face, turns around, and increases the television volume to drown out the sound from the bedroom.
A few beats later, Dimitri goes outside for a swim and we see shots of him cut with shots of Jen's hands pounding on the glass door. One brilliant shot shows Jen through the glass as we see a reflected image of Dimitri diving into the pool. Dimitri's blasé attitude is horrific and visually, Fargeat puts him on the same level as Stanley, Jen's rapist. This is a powerful statement about complicity and as soon as I watched this scene, I knew Fargeat wouldn't disappoint me.
The way Richard looks at Jen here is the way all of the men look at Jen.
The casting of Dimitri, Richard, and Stan is purposeful and each represents a different type of masculinity on the sliding scale of acceptance. In his review for The Playlist, Eli Fine makes an excellent point:
"It’s difficult to miss the fact that the film’s three male characters represent three starkly different degrees of male physical attractiveness: Richard is an ideal male specimen, just a straight-up hot dude, which no doubt helped him achieve success in his career and relationships. Stan is a middling sort of guy, a normal man with unintentional facial hair and an emerging paunch, who certainly could never coast on his looks. Dimitri is a slovenly mess who has basically given up and has long since internalized the fact that he’s not even in the same game as Richard. He never imagines for a second that Jen would be interested in him."
Dimitri is the type of dude that society would have no problem recognizing as a rapist because he's disgusting. Watching him chomp on those chocolate marshmallows is enough to make anyone feel sick. Stanley is just sad enough that maybe a jury of other men would convict him to a minimal jail sentence for a brutal rape. Richard is Ed Westwick. He's conventionally attractive, charming, and talented. The common argument goes something like this: "Why would he rape someone? He can get any girl he wants."
Richard is the most dangerous man in this film and it's fitting that Fargeat lets him stick around until the end. Initially, he seems like a nice guy. Sure, he objectifies Jen and yes, he leaves her alone with his two male friends without warning her or asking if she's okay with it ... but they have a good rapport and she seems into him, despite his wife and children. Until he refuses to let her leave, offers her money to move to Canada, slaps her across the face, pushes her over a cliff and leaves her for dead, it seems like he might just be a run-of-the-mill hot douche. In the course of thirty-minutes, he reveals himself as a despicable dirtbag.
That split lip is from Richard. He smacks Jen after she threatens to call his wife.
Despite his genteel lax bro facade, Richard proves to be the worst of the bunch. Even Stan, who rapes Jen without thinking twice, shows emotion when Richard coldly shoves her to her death (or what he thinks will be her death). Richard is the alpha male - he makes decisions and his soldiers fall in line. He has the power to enact good or evil and he of course chooses the latter.
He's the male boss who doesn't stick up for you when a client uses micro aggressions ... the ex-boyfriend who gets drunk and slams you against a wall .... the dude who says this when you tell him, the first person you've ever told, about how his friend raped you:
"Honestly, I really don't care. Get the fuck over him. He's my friend and I love the man."
Is it patently obvious that I used a real life examples? That quote is from an old Facebook Messenger conversation. Isn't technology amazing? #MeToo #YallCantHide.
I personally don't know any men who I think would rape me if we were left alone in a house together for a few hours. I know plenty of Richards, though. This film exposes the danger of the Richards. It says, "you might have fooled me with your sexy French accent, but you will not live to wrong me again." It leaves the Richards for dead, oozing blood and guts, not looking quite so attractive anymore.
Jen just cauterized her own wound with a hot beer can. She has zero time for bullshit.
- Kevin Janssens has a great ass. He's too clean-shaven in this movie for my taste, but the ass is 👌🏻. Lindsay Pugh: objectifying men since 1989.
- There were so many great recurring shots: the apple, Jen's locket, ants, trails of bloods. With less care, they could have been sloppy or heavy-handed, but they worked for me in this film.
- Watching Jen's glittery "I ❤️ LA" shirt burn was oddly satisfying ... probably because LA sucks.
- There were some definite "Funny Games" vibes in the dialogue. At one point, Richard tells Stanley to turn off the AC because "it's unenvironmental, I can't stand it."
- The glass in the foot really set me over the edge. I feel kind of sick just thinking about it.
- As soon as I saw the first shot of Richard's beige house in the desert, I couldn't wait to see it covered in blood.
- I want to know what Kier-La Janisse and Carol Clover have to say about this film. I suspect they'd like it.
- This is the best, most feminist rape/revenge film I've ever seen. Fargeat took an old, stale genre and revamped it with new ideas, talent, and ardor.
- The soundtrack, composed of original music by Rob, is excellent ... but I wanted more synth. GIVE ME ALL THE SYNTH. I basically want every film to have the soundtrack from "The Guest."