The rape-revenge genre is not one which has always covered itself in glory over the years. With roots in the frank violence of I Spit on Your Grave and the misguided comedy interludes of The Last House on the Left, there has sometimes been a dubiousness to this exploitative, gruelling sub-genre. Still, movies like The Witch Who Came From The Sea prove that there is every opportunity to either subvert genre expectations or approach the complex politics of the genre from a different point of view.
Revenge, the debut feature from writer/director Coralie Fargeat debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival and was instantly heralded as both a revolutionary feminist slant on the rape/revenge formula and a slick entry into the canon (possibly feint praise considering the subject matter). As it makes its way on DVD and Blu Ray, away from the adrenaline, coffee and booze-fuelled hype of the midnight movie strand, it feels like a strange beast and one which, for all its gusto and gore, doesn’t quite provide the radical political treatise one would expect, given the praise.
Narratively speaking it’s nothing new. Matilda Lutz’s America socialite joins her boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens) at a remote hunting lodge while he spends time away from his wife and kids. Their romantic jaunt is abruptly curtailed by the appearance of two of his lecherous mates, with exactly the kind of violent sexual abuse, attempted murder and eventual redemptive massacre that you’d expect from anything with this title.
So, is it a decisively feminist approach to exploitation cinema? It’s difficult to see how this brings a whole lot new to the table. Apart from a late-in the-movie attempt at re-balancing of the Male Gaze, Revenge recycles most of the well-worn tropes that blighted a section of horror movies in the 70’s. There doesn’t seem to be much of anything that’s breaking new ground here in terms of its gender or sexual politics.
It certainly does have the courage of its horror convictions, though. It’s nothing if not brutally violent, and the second half move into rubbery, tangibly gruesome splatter is pulled of with finesse and an eye for gross-out spectacle.
You can’t fault it as an example of punishing, relentless horror, but does it do anything new? I’m not convinced.
Horror | France, 2017 | 18 | Blu-Ray Special Edition | 18th May 2020 (UK) | Second Sight Films | Dir.Coralie Fargeat | Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe
• Out for Blood: a new interview with director Coralie Fargeat and actor Matilda Lutz
• The Coward: a new interview with actor Guillaume Bouchède
• Fairy Tale Violence: a new interview with cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert
• New interview with composer Robin Coudert (Rob)
• New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor of Diabolique
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Adam Stothard
• Poster with new artwork
• Soft cover book with new writing by Mary Beth McAndrews and Elena Lazic