In the 1980s, the emergence of video cassettes ushered in bold new era in world of film: the era of the video nasty.
Vivid in both colour and their graphic depiction of violence, these films assaulted the senses, leaving an indelible imprint on the brain of anyone who watched them, whether they liked it or not.
A term first coined in the UK where various social commentators and religious groups were up in arms over the influx of these vividly rendered horror films, video nasties stood as a cinematic punk movement of sorts.
These filmmakers weren’t always out to make cinematic works of art; this was about sticking two fingers up to societal norms, especially when it came to things like plotting, characterisation and, most significantly, violence.
It wasn’t always pretty, but it opened up a whole new wealth of possibilities as to what could be put to film. And while things have come a long way since the extremities of the movement, every now and then a film still pops up that contains some of those same sensibilities.
Revenge is one of those movies, though to simply label it a modern-day video nasty doesn’t quite tell the whole story. The work of French writer and director Coralie Fargeat in her debut feature, Revenge is a stylishly visceral film, full of the most beautifully rendered blood and gore you could ever imagine.
A striking tale, colourfully brought to the screen, Revenge’s eye-catching aesthetics betray a story that has plenty in common with one of the nastiest movies of them all I Spit On Your Grave. Boasting a relatively unknown cast, it focuses on American socialite Jen, who heads off on a weekend of passion with her married French millionaire lover Richard at his remote desert-based property.
Those plans quickly go awry, however, when Richard’s two leering hunting buddies, Stan and Dimitri turn up early. It doesn’t take long before the combination of alcohol, hot weather and minimal clothing results in Jen being subjected to some unwanted advances – but that’s only the beginning.
Rape and left for dead by Richard and his friends, Jen rallies in the most extreme of circumstances. Played to perfection by relative newcomer Matilda Lutz, she proves tougher than the despicable trio realise, resulting in a bloody cat-and-mouse game that sees Jen go from victim to victor.
Fargeat’s film is both scarily violent and intelligently written, dissecting and deconstructing gender politics in the bloodiest way possible. A cut above the glut of revenge thrillers featuring ageing male action stars, it’s also perfectly paced. The movie’s ever-mounting tension builds and builds to a satisfying crescendo of gun fire, pain and blood. Lots and lots of blood.
The critics evidently agree, with Revenge earning a 100% rating from the 12 reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes so far. Seek it out, but don’t say we didn’t warn you