Coralie Fargeat’s debut feature Revenge is a fast-paced, gory and decidedly unapologetic body horror film which manages to incorporate a strong feminist message into an otherwise unabashedly violent genre movie. Written, as well as directed, by Fargeat the film packs more punches than your average Hollywood action flick, and is surprisingly unafraid to show its subversive horror credentials all the while making a strong case for the need for more female-led genre films, particularly in the current climate.
Jen (Matilda Lutz) is happily enjoying an illicit getaway with her married boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens) when the lovers are suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Richard’s sleazy hunting buddies Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède). After a night of heavy drinking and high-jinx, tensions rise between Jen and one of the unexpected guests, all of which culminates in a shocking act of violence against the young woman, leaving her for dead. Against all odds, and unbeknown to her aggressors who are busy planing how to get rid of her body, Jen survives and soon finds the strength to hunt them down, one by one.
From the offset, Fargeat manages to instill a sense of unease as the camera follows Jen whilst she is being ogled in a salacious manner, first by Richard, and later on by his two sleazy friends. Highlighting this toxic masculinity from the get go makes it easier for us to know where we stand with the narrative and, sure enough, we soon find out that things are about to get even worse.
Fargeat’s abundant use of blood and gore will leave even the most seasoned of horror fans cowering in their seat. Her commitment to the task at hand is as impressive as her ability to address a number of problematic issues without seeming too moralising or overly simplistic. Whilst wearing its Grindhouse influences proudly on its sleeves, the film also owes a great deal to classic Spaghetti Westerns a la Sergio Leone, with its vast barren landscapes, sparse dialogue and monosyllabic lone-wolf protagonists.
Despite some markedly ordinary performances from its European cast, it remains important to highlight Matilda Lutz’s truly astounding physical delivery. She scraps, she fights and she kicks abundant ass throughout. With a piercing stare and an attitude that would leave any man trembling in her presence, Jen becomes her namesake in I Spit on Your Grave and by the end we start to believe that she is capable of anything to get her own back.
Overall, Revenge isn’t afraid of displaying its genre credentials proudly from the offset. Coralie Fargeat delivers a truly magnificent piece of exploration horror which manages to be timely and hugely playful in equal measures. All of which makes this into one of the most impressive genre movies you’ll likely to come across this year. Not for the faint-hearted.
Revenge is in cinemas from Friday 11th of May