Tuesday, May 15, 2018

I Spit on Your Sub-genre

I got a little bit pissy on Twitter this morning reading some critics dismissive reactions to Lars von Trier's latest - even though I need to check myself since I obviously haven't had the chance to see it yet! - but let it be known that even I, dismisser of casual wussiness, have my limits. For one I've always kept my distance from the "Rape Revenge" sub-genre of horror. I've never seen I Spit on Your Grave, and the one time I saw Wes Craven's Last House on the Left was plenty. More than plenty, probably - there are moments in the movie that've never left me, and make me queasy right now thinking about them. (But then shouldn't I have that sort of reaction to rape? Depiction is not in itself endorsement, and also there are squiggling worms waiting to eat all of our smiling faces off from the inside out so maybe we shouldn't be such hypocrites.)

Anyway here's the deal: I ended up watching Revenge, the latest entry in this dubious canon of films, by mistake. I'd forgotten that's what it was I was watching until it was too late. When I did realize what I was watching I paused the film, googled it, and double-checked what I vaguely recalled - yup, it was directed by a woman. So I pressed play - let's see what a female filmmaker does with this. And I'm glad I did, because Revenge, while not perfect, grapples with its dubious canon directly, birthing a fresh take on forever troubling material. And... it's also just pretty to look at and rousing filmmaking too. That's allowed right? This would make a good double-feature with Ana Lily Amirpour's incredibly similar The Bad Batch, although I greatly prefer Revenge since it doesn't strain quite as hard for purpose; don't let 'em see you sweat.

The opening scenes of the film set up Jen (Matilda Lutz) as everything our "blame the victim" culture sneers at - she's materialistic, she flirts shamelessly, she's sleeping with a married man, she prances around in her underwear in front of strangers. Sure enough she rubs herself up against the wrong dude and wham bam she's crawling through the desert with her guts hanging out. The film thankfully doesn't focus on the "wham bam" of the rape sequence - instead the moment's used to highlight the inhumanity of these particular fellow men (a drawn-out close-up of a man's open chewing mouth tells you plenty) - but when the time for guts comes, and it comes pretty quick, writer-director Coralie Fargeat really hones right in; revenge in this case is a dish best served gooey.

Wounds are where it's at, and Fargeat's camera lingers well passed the breaking point upon them - this is a movie then about either searing those sores shut or tearing them open for good. There's no in between; there's no letting things slowly fester. Zero to ninety and we're flying off the road, innards on the dashboard and blood in the wipers. Revenge is at its finest an action-thriller - Terminator springs to mind, just Jen doesn't have that trusty robot exo-skeleton to save her. But then neither do those men. It's bodily apocalypse for somebody - may the best victims win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Revenge is trash! Just watched it. A woman who fell from a cliff onto a tree spike piercing through her stomach and then survived miraculous with no haemorrhaging was simply unbelievable. Coupled with her intuition to know which direction to travel in the desert and her sudden zest of street-smartness and intuition, far from her initial bimbo mentality was too much to bear. Talk about cognitive dissonance.