Coralie Fargeat‘s aptly-titled Revenge helicopters to a desert canyon in which Rings star Matilda Lutz must fight for her life against three wealthy, middle-aged CEOs. Poetically timed for release this year, the film is an allegory for workplace harassment, abuse, and how it’s handled. While strong on social commentary, it’s also harrowing, thrilling, and immensely entertaining.
Revenge opens with a helicopter arriving in the middle of nowhere. Richard (Kevin Janssens), a presumably successful CEO, steps out with his young mistress, Jennifer (Lutz), a sexy Lolita who is painted as a floozy. They waste no time getting hot and heavy until they’re interrupted by a phone call – the man’s wife and kids. Dick — er, I mean Richard, exclaims, “Everything would be so simple if the kids weren’t there.” It’s an important moment because it announces that Jen is fully aware that this is an affair, which gives her a much-needed character flaw. Jen may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean she deserves what is coming…
Richard’s two friends arrive and are startled by Jen’s beauty. It becomes a flirtatious dance into the night as they party with booze and drugs. When Richard refuses to dance with Jen, she seductively slithers around one of his friends, Stan (Vincent Colombe), until the sexual tension nearly pops. Richard can’t take it anymore and whisks her away back to their room for the evening.
The next morning, Jen finds herself at a breakfast table with Stan, who explains that Richard will be back in a bit. He corners her in the bedroom, blaming her for his forthcoming acts of sexual violence: “Now, suddenly, I’m not your type? Yesterday you were dying for it.” Jen is raped. When she confronts Richard, he hits her and calls her a whore. She’s chased into the desert where she stands backed to the edge of a cliff. Richard pushes her off. She lays pinned to a rock and left for dead.
While Revenge carries inspiration from predecessors like The Crow and the criminally underseen Avenged, it forges its own path as a realistic and grounded revenge thriller more in tune with Wolf Creek, I Spit On Your Grave or Irréversible. The highlight of the movie comes when Jen must remove a sharp tree branch from her stomach. In a sequence for the ages, she takes a heavy dose of peyote. Echoing the desert scene in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and going full Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, Jen hallucinates a rebirth that’s fueled by hellish visions and several perfectly timed scares. Still wounded, she now becomes the hunter and will stop at nothing to get her revenge.
In a complete reversal, Fargeat ratchets up the tension in what will become one of the most violent and bloody films of the year. While there isn’t a whole lot of death, the injuries are gruesome. Fargeat (dangerously) pushes the camera in and holds on a series of grotesque moments, making it impossible not to cringe.
Jen becomes death incarnate. The friends took the bite of the forbidden fruit and now they will be punished. The final act becomes a different kind of dance, a brutally rigid fight to the death that plays out like a chase sequence in “Scooby-Doo”, only with blood spraying all over the place. Fargeat’s camerawork is superb and takes the intensity to another level. In fact, Revenge reaches such heights that, when the end credits smash on screen, it will leave most viewers sitting in silent reflection for several minutes. Social commentary aside, Revenge is fucking hardcore. It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt the first great horror film of 2018.