Possible Trigger Warning
Revenge is a French horror film that has finally made it’s way to America via Shudder. It follows Jen who leaves on a romantic weekend with her very married boyfriend only to have it crashed by two of his friends. What follows is what is to be expected, and it sends Jen on a quest for revenge.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie, but some of what I need to say requires me to do so. After that, I will attempt to remain as spoiler free as possible. Rape-revenge horror movies are not my favorite sub-genre. I find them incredibly problematic because many of them focus so much on the actual assault itself so they start to feel like rape fantasy with some revenge thrown on at the end so we can all feel better about watching it. Movies like I Spit On Your Grave and the original Last House on the Left draw out the assaults for so long it becomes an issue for me. That is not to say they are automatically bad movies, just that I have trouble with them. Revenge’s scene is awful, but it is thankfully brief and not that graphic. The focus being shifted more to the aftermath rather than a drawn-out assault with some aftermath is something I am grateful for.
I also appreciate that the movie doesn’t attempt to redeem Jen’s attackers. You can make an argument that Jen loses herself in her quest for revenge, but the men have no moral compass and no thought for Jen or women in general. If you wanted to counter that this aspect would have been fine with more of a grey area, I would be willing to have that discussion, but for my enjoyment, these two aspects playing out the way they did made the overall experience better for myself.
With that said, after Jen is assaulted she is left for dead to hide the assault, only she doesn’t die. We follow her as she attempts to gain the upper hand and get her revenge on the men that hurt her and tried to kill her.
Jen’s path is not an easy one. She is tough, but she doesn’t exactly know what she is doing, hunting the men down doesn’t come naturally to her. I liked this. Many movies in the same vein almost seem to have a switch, girl goes from helpless victim to complete badass without missing a beat. Jen makes mistakes and learns slowly as she hunts down her prey. Not only is this more believable but it makes for tense moments because she never entirely has the upper hand. Not knowing what the outcome of certain scenes might be, gives what would otherwise just be a gore fest true suspense.
But speaking of gore fest if you’ve seen any advertisements for this film you know that it bills itself as being brutal and downright hard to watch, and that is no lie. Revenge pulls no punches and goes from 0 to 60 on the graphic scale rather quickly. Once the core movie gets started, it will hit you hard with blood and gore. In spite of this, it never feels like pure gore porn. There are some gratuitous scenes to be sure, and will at times feel like an ultra-violent revenge flick. Yet it still manages to be suspenseful and is compelling to watch.
Aside from its brutality, it can also boast to being very stylized. It goes full force in artistic and visually compelling moments. It is an exciting and very French blend of art, style, gore, violence, color, and something almost beautiful. It’s hard to explain and more “you will know it when you experience it.” At times I thought it went a little too full tilt in the “art” direction, but overall I was impressed with the experience.
It also has a killer soundtrack, no pun intended. Much like the film itself it’s an odd blend of music styles and can catch you off guard at some points while adding the perfect touch to other moments.
In the end, this movie is not perfect, but it’s damn good. It is visually appealing and appalling. The subject matter is one that is touched on in horror, and I feel this movie does an excellent job with it. It’s violent which you want in horror and stylized which takes it to a new level. It’s a good experience from start to finish. It experiments with some fresh ideas and while it doesn’t hit the mark every time it does more often than not. I wouldn’t say it’s for everybody and people that don’t have much experience with French films might be turned off by certain moments. I do think that more horror fans will enjoy it than not. If horror is not your favorite genre, I would say avoid unless you have a soft spot for violent and/or French films.