by Hope Madden
The rape-revenge film is a tough one to pull off. Even in the cases where the victim rips bloody vengeance through the bodies of her betrayers, the films are too often titillating. Almost exclusively written and directed by men for a primarily male audience, the comeuppance angle can be so bent by the male gaze that the film feels more like an additional violation.
Well, friends, writer/director Coralie Fargeat changes all that with Revenge, a breathless, visually fascinating, bloody-as-hell vengeance flick that repays the viewer for her endurance. (His, too.)
Jen (Matilda Lutz—Rings) travels with her wealthy, married boyfriend to a remote desert getaway. She’s very young, bubble-gum sweet and trusting, a sexy charmer who wants far too much to be liked and noticed.
Her lover, Richard (Kevin Janssens) is happy to oblige with that attention. Unfortunately, so are his two sketchy hunting buddies (Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchede), who show up a day early, interrupting the romance and creating an unseemly tension at the house.
Fargeat’s grasp of male entitlement and the elements of a rape culture are as sharp as her instincts for visual storytelling. Wildly off-kilter close-ups sandwich gorgeous vistas to create a dreamlike frame for the utterly brutal mess of a film unfolding.
The filmmaker articulates the gender power struggle throughout the film as sights and sounds reflect and repeat—the echo of the image of a trail of blood from Act 1, for example, wordlessly emphasizes the shifting power.
Symbol-heavy but never pretentious or preachy, the film follows a traditional path—she is betrayed, she is underestimated, she repays her assailants for their toxic masculinity. But between Fargeat’s wild aesthetic, four very solid performances, and thoughtful yet visceral storytelling, the film feels break-neck, terrifying and entirely satisfying.