European films

Revenge film review: Matilda Lutz rape-revenge thriller is a subversive horror gem

French director Coralie Fargeat shows her eye for a stylish shot and the ability to keep audiences enthralled in this tense, eye-wateringly gory rape-revenge thriller starring Matilda Lutz as a sex kitten turned merciless killer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 1:14pm

3.5/5 stars

The typical rape-revenge drama gets the Gallic gore treatment in this satisfying pulp thriller from French first-time director Coralie Fargeat. 

A game of cat and mouse set in the desert begins innocently enough as swanky playboy Richard (Kevin Janssens) arrives by helicopter in the grounds of a stylish middle-of-nowhere villa with his bit on the side Jen (Matilda Lutz). Sucking on a lollipop, she’s a walking Barbie, evidently enjoying the attentions of this married man. 

The next day, Richard’s oafish hunting buddies Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede) arrive, unaware that Richard has brought a female companion along for the ride. In her crop top and teeny-tiny shorts, Jen is too distracting for Stan, who evidently feels she is fair game. As soon as his friend is out running an errand, he propositions her. When she refuses, he rapes her without remorse. 

What follows is even more merciless, as the returning Richard has no wish to deal with his hysterical mistress. Yet this is a film about a woman striking back. With a nod to the classic female revenge fantasy I Spit On Your Grave, the fragile-looking sex-kitten Jen is a born survivor laced with fighting spirit. The three men have no idea what hits them. 

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For the most part, narrative logic flies out of the window. In one crazily hallucinogenic scene, Jen even cauterises a wound with a tin can whilst high on peyote, leaving the imprint of the drink’s logo emblazoned across her stomach. Yet credit Fargeat, who has an eye for a stylish shot and the ability to keep audiences enthralled in what plays like an old-school B movie.

The desert setting, all filmed in Morocco, is tremendously used, while production designer Pierre Queffelean creates a wonderful antiseptic canvas for the blood-soaked finale. Revenge is hardly profound – and some will surely find it all very distasteful – but tense, traumatic and eye-wateringly gory, it sure sizzles off the screen. See it at midnight. 

Revenge opens on May 10

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