I Spit on Your Grave was a film first released in 1978, originally titled Day of the Woman, written and directed by Meir Zarchi, it was loosely based on an actual occurrence. A woman is targeted by local slime bags and is assaulted, raped and left for dead. She awakens, empowered with revenge and exacts it on her assailants, one by one in gory detail. It was remade in 2010 with sequels released in 2013, 2015 and one more is slated for release this year. It will probably be a straight to DVD and On Demand release so that should tell you how good a film it will be. In fact, NONE of these films have been very good, at all. So I don’t recall a huge demand for crap like this. The long and short of it is, these films are very cheap to make and generally make back their budgets and even produce of profit.
Coralie Fargeat is a French director and she has made virtually the same film as any of the I Spit on Your Grave entries with her latest bit of nastiness in Revenge. To say Revenge is the best film, yet, from this inexplicable genre of films is not saying much. Revenge has been getting a lot of buzz from local and independent film festivals and has even garnered a lot of critical praise. It is indeed a better film than any of the other films, powered by Fargeat’s unflinchingly hard core direction and a fearless performance by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz as the lead character of Jen.
As the film opens, she is travelling with her boyfriend to his isolated mansion in the middle of the desert. We are not really told where it is but the film was shot in Morocco so we can leave it at that. Upon arriving, two of her boyfriend’s friends show up and the four of them actually have a nice night of dinner and drinks. The next morning Jen awakens to find herself alone in the house with the two louts after her boyfriend has stepped out. She is attacked and sexually assaulted but her problems are just beginning. Her boyfriend arrives back, tries to console her by paying her off but is rebuked. A fight ensues and Jen runs fearing for her life and ends up being pushed off of a cliff and impales herself with a dried up tree trunk. Not only does she not die, she manages to free herself from the trunk and proceeds to heal herself in a cave. Revenge is what comes next.
I still cannot understand who the market is for films like this. I watched this film only because the critical word of mouth was overwhelmingly positive. The things that work are Ms. Lutz’s gutsy performance. She is not only beautiful but she shows she has some range as this role takes her from being a convincing victim to a woman empowered with the rage for revenge. Also the direction and script both by Coralie Fargeat, does not go down the same road as the I Spit on your Grave franchise. Revenge seems to know how far to push this material and wisely relies on people being able to connect the dots, so to speak. I also enjoyed the cinematography which makes great use of the Moroccan desert.
But the simple fact is Revenge is a seat squirmier. I don’t really care how much care you take in shooting this kind of a film, the overall material used for this film is quite disgusting. It is supposed to be. It is supposed to repel the viewer and get you on the side of Jen, which will happen almost immediately. Once we get past the inevitable assault and “death” of Jen and the revenge part of the film begins, that is when Revenge kicks it into high gear. This is an extremely graphic and violent picture and shows just about everything that Jen does to the three men when exacting her revenge. So this is not for the squeamish.
All said and done, Revenge is an acquired taste. You have to be in the mood for an exploitation film if you want to come away entertained. Revenge works only as an action picture, other than that, it is disposable entertainment. I do want to see what Coralie Fargeat and Ms. Lutz can do with a bigger budget. These are two talented ladies in an industry powered mostly by men so I would love to see these two get a different kind of action picture. One with a budget that allows Coralie Fargeat the ability to craft a more palatable plot that doesn’t require a sexual assault to justify the action. She has the action star in Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz ready to go.
Revenge – ** 3/4 out of 5
Revenge – Rated R for Graphic violence, gore, language, sexual situations and nudity
Revenge – Run time is 108 minutes
Revenge is now playing in select cities, On Demand and pay subscriptions services. Check your local listings for times, locations, pricing and availability.