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There’s no more treacherous horror subgenre than the rape-revenge thriller, because the worst examples confuse exploitation for empowerment, answering graphic scenes of sexual assault with a gruesome parade of righteous kills. The small miracle of “Revenge,” an exceptionally potent and sure-handed first feature by French writer-director Coralie Fargeat, is that it adheres to the formula yet feels invigorating and new, a stylistic tour-de-force that also tweaks the sexual politics in meaningful ways. Fargeat brings a rare woman’s perspective to the table, for one, but she also flat-out delivers the goods, operating at the high end of extreme French horror films like “High Tension,” “Martyrs” and, especially, “Inside.” The streaming service Shudder picked up “Revenge” prior to its world premiere at TIFF, and attention from genre fans is assured.
When Jen (Matilda Lutz) arrives by chopper at her millionaire boy toy’s secluded desert villa, she deliberately casts herself as a grown-up Lolita, with pink plastic star earrings and a sucker bobbing provocatively from her mouth. She knows that Richard (Kevin Janssens) is cheating on his wife, but their unsavory partnership offers the base pleasures of cocaine, luxury accommodations and two beautiful bodies in motion. Their debauched weekend takes a turn, however, when two of Richard’s hunting buddies (Vincent Columbe and Guillaume Bouchede) drop by the house unannounced and spend the evening drinking and dancing on the terrace.
Morning - Men - Pass - Jen - Behavior
The next morning, one of the men makes a pass at Jen, assuming that her behavior the night before amounted to a sexual invitation. When she refuses his advances, it sets into motion a series of events common to many rape-revenge thrillers: an assault perpetrated by multiple men, a near death from the trauma that’s incurred and a rebirth as an angel of vengeance. The perpetrators have experience hunting wild game together, so Jen, unarmed and...
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