Follow The Blood Trails: Fargeat Impresses And Disappoints With Feature Debut
Coralie Fargeat’s feature debut makes a bold attempt at redirecting the well-worn rape and revenge horror film, with several elements borrowed extensively from preceding entries in the New French Extremity, with mixed results. Though its gag-inducing effects and distinct visual flair are something to behold, Revenge is a tired genre exercise defined by unrealistic leaps in logic, a tensionless and foreseeable plot, and being sorely devoid of any intelligent characters.
Jen (Matilda Lutz) is off to spend the weekend with her wealthy adulterous lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) at his remote vacation house. As they are all set for a couple days of passion, Richard’s friends Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) arrive early for their pre-planned hunting trip. Though initially getting along quite well with the others, Jen is eventually cornered and raped by Stan. To keep her silent about what had happened, Richard first tries to set up a brand new life for her out of the country, and when that fails, Jen then is hunted by the three men, to silence her for good. However soon the tables turn, as Jen takes her revenge on her tormentors, one at a time.
There is much to enjoy and even admire in Fargeat’s aesthetic. The vivid colorization and stark contrasts paint an uneasy image which crawls under your skin from the very first frame, with no false assumptions on what we are about to endure. This meshed with Fargeat, Jerome Eltabet, and Bruno Safar’s stellar use of free associative imagery and juxtapositive editing, creates an almost welcomed visual sensory overload (which accents the action taken on screen, especially one sequence involving peyote). However, that does not dismiss the blatantly persistent continuity errors that exist throughout the final cut, some of which should have easily been corrected. Alain Féat’s sound design is cringe-inducing to say the least, with each squelch of blood and breaking of bones amplifying the overall atmosphere of the film to rather chilling levels.
However, the whole of the film requires an overly-demanding and exhausting state of suspended disbelief, otherwise the plot falls apart fairly quickly. Most notably, Jen sustains so many injuries and blood-loss that under no circumstance should she have been able to survive long enough (or even remain conscious) to exact any form of revenge. This is further compounded by numerous encounters between Jen and her attackers only occurring via someone following thick blood trails throughout the desert. Though the practical effects and makeup design are impressively powerful, they are so relatively excessive that they eventually lose their impact and simply become downright comic.
A modern repackage of Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” by way of I Spit on Your Grave, though billed as a flip on “the male gaze”, capsizing the genre cliches of “female objectification”, this film honestly doesn’t do much of any of that, resulting in a reasonably typical exploitation piece. While Revenge is enjoyable as a wild gorey ride captured rather uniquely, it doesn’t have much else going for it that sets it apart from the rest of its overstuffed subgenre.