All the Creatures Were Stirring

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Two people go on an awkward Christmas Eve date to the theatre. The tiny stage production is bizarre and goes through a series of little vignettes. These vignettes go over a range of topics such as an office party gone wrong, a twist on A Christmas Carol, a killer reindeer, a Christmas demon, and an alien encounter. The one thing all of these have in common is the holiday spirit.

There are so many reasons why All the Creatures Were Stirring is the new standard in holiday horror anthologies. This is the feature film debut for Rebekah and David Ian McKendry who co-wrote and directed the film together. Their names are well-known in the horror community, and their love of the genre can be felt throughout this film. The McKendrys came up with an array of compelling short films relating to Christmas and found an ingenious way of connecting them all together. This makes the film stand out from others like it because it is rare for the short films in an anthology film to have the same writer/directors. It is even more rare for shorts by the same writer/director to be so varied in style and tone. Even with the small budget, the film also has a little something for everyone.

The overarching story follows two people on a date. It is as awkward as you would expect for a Christmas Eve date, and the hilarious little stage production they go to makes the date even more awkward. Even with the humor, the date slowly turns sinister as the plot progresses. Each vignette of the play transitions us to the next short that comprises the film. It is hilarious to catch a glimpse of the story being told on stage compared to the short film telling the same story. Each short is so entertaining in its own way. The segment featuring an office Christmas party gone wrong is violent, thrilling, hilarious, and has some unexpected moments. One segment is a reinvention of A Christmas Carol. The filmmakers do a great job of reinventing the classic story in a way that is modern and relatable for audiences, and yet creepy as well. One of my favorites shorts follows a Twilight Zone-esque alien encounter. This short feels the most sentimental and quirky, and it has two fantastic performances from the leads. In probably the most frightening segment, a last minute shopper is stranded in a parking lot where he meets two strange women. It is dark, unique, and creates a mythology I want to learn more about. Then there is the killer reindeer short, which is probably the most hilarious vignette. It has such a fun and ridiculous concept that is executed by including POV shots from a certain nameless red-nosed reindeer (wink wink, nudge nudge). I also love the vibrant red and green Christmasy color pallet used. Some of these shorts are stronger than others, but when you put them together the audience gets a great anthology film.

Each segment has fantastic actors, including many who horror fans will recognize. It is difficult to select the standout performances, but the first two that come to mind are the actors from the alien segment. Morgan Peter Brown (Ouija, Absentia) stars in this short as Steve. Brown is hilarious because of how he shows Steve’s resignation to his holiday visitors. This also plays well off of Constance Wu (Fresh off the Boat, Eastsiders) as Gabby. Gabby is not quite so used to be around aliens, and Wu’s performance is a perfect juxtaposition to Brown’s. And, what would an indie horror film be without an appearance from Graham Skipper (Beyond the Gates, Almost Human) as Max, the guy on the unfortunate theatre date of the overarching story? Skipper plays the awkward characters so well, and his performance in this short is no exception. I could write an entire article just about the perfect performances of this film, so instead I will give honorable mention to the rest of my favorites: Jonathan Kite (2 Broke Girls), Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil), Ashley Clements (Non-Transferable), Amanda Fuller (Red White & Blue), Makeda Declet (The Thinning), Matt Mercer (Contracted: Phase II), Matt Long (Ghost Rider), and Maria Olsen (Reunion). The entire ensemble, even those I didn’t mention, are fantastic.

The visual aspects of this film are also very well done for a low-budget film. There are a few instances of CGI used throughout the film, but they are used fairly sparingly. The most prominent use is in the segment that retells A Christmas Carol. There are some great practical effects as well, but what the filmmakers truly excel at is controlling where the audience’s eye goes and implying things without actually showing anything. For example, in the killer reindeer segment you never actually see the four-legged killer. Instead, the audience knows what it is by the noises it makes, the glowing red nose, and the reason behind it’s sudden thirst for blood. Between the color pallets, use of black and white in certain segments, camera angles, and POV shots, there is a lot of visual interest that catches the eye. The filmmakers prove that sometimes less is more when it comes to storytelling, and it is something they do quite well.

All the Creatures Were Stirring is the new must-watch horror film for the holidays. It will be loved for Christmas the way people love to watch Trick ‘r Treat for Halloween. Not only does this film stand out from other similar anthologies because each short is written and directed by the McKendrys, but each short feels distinctly different from each other and offers a range of styles and concepts. There is something that appeals to every member of the family. Combine that with stunning visuals and fantastic performances and you get the new standard in Christmas horror. This is one film you will definitely want to add to your horror collection.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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The Ranger

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After a traumatic childhood, a teen girl lives a transient punk lifestyle with her friends. A police incident forces the group of punks to find a place to hide out. They go back to the place of the girl’s trauma where they meet the park ranger. Things go from bad to worse when the friends realize this isn’t your friendly neighborhood ranger.

This thrilling flick is the work of director Jenn Wexler and co-writer Giaco Furino, both making their feature film debut. At first glance this film seems like a typical popcorn slasher. While it does have many of the elements making it fun and exciting to watch, it goes even deeper than that. For one, the film has some great character development. A large portion of the beginning of the film allows the audience to really get to know the characters and care for them, especially the teen girl whose cabin they go to. All of the characters are flawed as well, making them more believable and relatable. There is a great aspect of the character development that explores both dealing with trauma and finding your place in the world. It is something that speaks to many different types of audiences, while still giving an entertaining story.

Another extremely successful aspect of the film is the treatment of LGBTQ characters. It is common in horror films for the LGBTQ characters to fit some stereotype or have their being gay be the focus of who they are as a person. In The Ranger there is a gay couple and the best part about them is that I didn’t even realize they were gay until a ways into the film. They feel like real people and, aside from them having a sweet couple moment or two, the filmmakers don’t focus on the fact that they are gay.

The only downside is that the character development may go on a little too long. When the action starts it almost feels rushed because so much time is spent on what happens before the kids even meet the ranger. There is also very little development of the ranger himself. In many ways it works. The ranger’s strange behavior is a mystery, which makes sense because the audience knows as much about the ranger as the teens do. Yet I can’t help wishing I knew more about some of the more bizarre things he does.

This film is filled with outstanding performances from the entire cast. The clear standout is Chloe Levine (The Transfiguration, The OA) as Chelsea. Chelsea went through a childhood trauma that lead her to finding a home in the punk scene. It’s fascinating to see how Levine portrays Chelsea as a young woman who is finding her way in the word. She also does a superb job of showing the audience Chelsea is a survivor who can adapt to any situation thrown at her. Another great performance comes from Jeremy Holm (House of Cards, Mr. Robot) as the ranger. Even when the ranger is being perfectly pleasant, Holm still manages to bring an edge to his performance. It is like he is a bear trap ready to spring at any provocation. When he finally does snap, Holm makes the ranger an entertaining and derange killer. Honorable mention goes to the rest of the punks including Granit Lahu (The Sinner), Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler (Puzzle), and Amanda Grace Benitez (All Cheerleaders Die), all of whom are perfect punks.

The artistry of the film is intriguing as well. As with any good slasher flick, there is a decent amount of blood and gore in this film. The practical effects are very well done. There is a high level of gore, but it is done in a very realistic way. This is great because there isn’t anything that feels over-the-top or overtly fake like in many classic slasher films. The music in the film also elevates it to a heightened level of art. The punk rock blends perfectly with the style and imagery to create something quite stunning to watch.

The Ranger is equal parts carnage, survival, and punk rock. It has all the appeal of an eighties slasher flick, but it also tells a more complex story. The plot allows for fascinatingly flawed characters to be thrust into extreme circumstances. This leaves room for great character development that explores the many facets of human nature, how people deal with trauma, and the will to survive. Sprinkle in a great killer and punk rock music and you get a very well made film. There may be a bit of room for improvement when it comes to the pacing of the film, but for a directorial and writing debut from Wexler and Furina, it is definitely a strong start.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

 

Secret Santa

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A large family comes together for Christmas. Like many other families, this one is broken and estranged and dysfunctional. As they all come together around the table for Christmas dinner the fighting begins. But these aren’t your ordinary family arguments. The fights turn violent and this average holiday get-together becomes a bloody, chaotic massacre.

Everyone believes they have a weird family. Some family members you love and others you can’t stand. Writer/director Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Texas Chainsaw 3D) and co-writer Debra Sullivan (Conspiracy, Texas Chainsaw 3D) take something we are all familiar with and amplify it. This family has deep seeded issues due to divorce, remarriage, success, failure, and of course a large dose of sibling rivalry. When something happens that turns the family members into crazed, bloodthirsty killers the excitement really kicks in. The dynamics between various family members are some of the highlights of the film because many audience members will see themselves and their families in the film. The hilarious dialogue helps to highlight those strained relationships and it even carries into some of the kill scenes. As truths are revealed and the non-crazy family members try to fight for their lives, things get very thrilling and hilarious.

There are a few breakout performances in this film that will stick with you long after the credits roll. A early standout is Nathan Hedrick (Art of War, Seven Deadly Sins) as Jackson, the outspoken horndog half brother. Hedrick’s performance is totally over the top, but it works for his character. He’s loud, he’s crazy, and when he becomes violent he has some hilarious scenes. A Leslie Kies (The Newsroom, Jane the Virgin) shines as April. April is the perfect child among all the siblings. On the surface she seems too perfect, but as the film progresses Kies shows April’s hidden flaws and secrets in a compelling way. The true star of this film, in my opinion, is Ryan Leigh Seaton (NerdGirls, Dogs & Me) as Penny. Penny is the black sheep of the family and Seaton plays her as the sarcastic sibling who hates everyone incredibly well. Seaton also has some of the most hilarious lines and her delivery will leave you in stitches. While the entire cast is really fun to watch, Seaton is likely the one who will be remembered the most.

It’s safe to say that there is a lot of blood in this film. Fans of gore will not be disappointed. On top of that, there are some really unique kills. The film even opens with a fight from the point of view of a snow globe, which ends up being used as a weapon. This allows the filmmakers to show some very creative effects. All the attacks, from severed heads to cut Achilles tendons, are grotesque and thrilling.  Not only are these kills creative and even funny at times, but the practical effects look amazing as well. There is a level of campiness with the amount of blood and gore, but it fits in very well with the tone of the film.

Secret Santa is the holiday horror film to watch when you want to see a family that is more dysfunctional than your own. It is equal parts carnage and laughs, with outrageous characters that have you laughing and screaming from start to finish. This is the kind of film that you go into knowing it is meant to be humorous, gory, and campy. Slasher horror comedies with this kind of humor and gore can be an acquired taste, but they can also be some of the most fun experiences you’ll have in watching a film. This film will clearly become a holiday staple for horror fans.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

The Heretics

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A young girl is kidnapped by a cult. They use her to perform a ritual under the locust moon, but then the entire cult commits suicide. Years later she struggles to cope with the trauma of that day. As a new locust moon approaches, the girl is kidnapped again by a lone survivor of the cult, but he claims to want to save her from an evil growing inside her. She must decide to believe him or escape, and time is running out.

The single strongest part of this film is the premise. Chad Archibald (Bite, The Drownsman) came up with the story and directed while Jayme Laforest (Bite, Gods of Accident) wrote the screenplay. The plot is interesting because it almost instantly subverts your expectations. When you see a young girl kidnapped by a cult, you expect her to be sacrificed for some demon or god. That isn’t what happens here. The cult actually sacrifices themselves, leaving the girl alone on the alter to find her way home. It isn’t until years later that the horror truly begins. The film flips back and forth between what is happening with the kidnapped girl and her captor, then showing the people who are searching for the girl. It allows the filmmakers to slowly reveal details as the plot progresses. There is also a really interesting level of surreal hallucinations as it gets closer to dawn. The idea behind the film is great, but the film leans more towards melodrama and camp in a film that otherwise has a very serious and sinister tone.

The performances in this film are a bit of a mixed bag. Nina Kiri (The Handmaid’s Tale, Let Her Out) plays Gloria, the victim of two kidnappings. For the most part Kiri’s portrayal of Gloria keeps the audience interested and empathetic, especially as we learn the PTSD she experiences in the wake of the first kidnapping. There are times in her performance later on where she comes off as a bit breathy (I know that may sound odd, but it is the word that comes to mind). She sometimes speaks softly and with the breathiness of someone trying to talk after going for a long run. While this technically works for the circumstances she is in, it comes across as more of an acting tool rather than a genuine reaction to the circumstances. Ry Barrett (The Demolisher, Inspiration) plays kidnapper Thomas. This is likely the most complex character. He was a member of the cult and, in an act of regret and cowardice, he does not sacrifice himself with the others. Now he kidnaps Gloria again in order to redeem himself. Barrett does a good job of conveying the complicated emotions Thomas goes through as he tries to overcome his guilt. Jorja Cadence (Helltown, Y2K) plays Gloria’s girlfriend, Joan. Cadence’s performance starts out fine, but as she goes into hysterics after Gloria is kidnapped her performance becomes a bit over the top. There is a lot of yelling and screaming that is exaggerated to the point of being almost humorous.

One of the stronger points of the film is the practical effects. The longer Gloria is locked away in the secluded cabin, the more she begins to transform. The filmmakers take their time with the transformation, allowing there to be subtle changes as the plot progresses. These changes eventually get fairly grotesque. The grotesque features altering such a beautiful young woman make the changes even more disturbing. The final transformation moves away from practical effects and turns to CGI, which unfortunately takes away from the shocking imagery and cheapens the overall look.

The Heretics is a film with the makings of a great plot that just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. The idea behind it is great and the plot has some surprising points to keep audiences interested. For the most part it has compelling performances as well, but again there are times when the acting goes over the top into the realm of campy B-movies. The special effects stand out as a high point, until the end when the filmmakers make the choice to move from practical to CGI effects. It is obvious that the film is split down the middle when it comes to high and low points, making it just an okay film.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10

Feral

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A group of medical school students venture into the woods for a camping trip. On the first night they are attacked by something. Once bitten, they become infected with a strange disease and it’s changing them into dangerous creatures. The students will have to use their medical knowledge and whatever survival skills they have to escape with their lives.

This tale of survival is directed by Mark H. Young (Tooth and Nail, Wicked Blood) and written by both Young and first-time screenwriter Adam Frazier. On the surface, the plot will seem very familiar. A group of college kids going into the woods and then being terrorized by some unknown creature is a concept that has been done time and time again. There are some thrilling and frightening moments mixed in with some more predictable ones (such as the obvious foreshadowing of who the first victims will be). The filmmakers use two methods to try to make Feral stand apart; the leading couple is a lesbian couple, and instead of just a monster in the woods there is a “feral virus.”

When it comes to having a prominent lesbian couple, the film has some high and low points. First and foremost is that the couple doesn’t fall into the typical stereotypes commonly found in film. There isn’t one woman that is more “butch” and one that is more “femme,” they are not man-hating, and their sexual orientation isn’t all they talk about or what defines them. In this way, the couple is very well developed compared to other films. The biggest drawback is the fact that they are two women in a relationship was brought up to much by other other characters, putting it in the spotlight and focusing a lot of the non-monster drama on that relationship and what others thought of it.

The virus itself is very interesting. Calling it a “feral” virus implies it might be some kind of rabies-like virus that infects the host and makes them hyper-violent. This is somewhat true in the film, but the virus also kills the host then brings them back to life as a bloodthirsty creature. There are even physical changes such as hair loss, yellow eyes, pale skin, elongated ears, and razor sharp teeth and claws. It honestly comes across as very muddled, like it is a rabies virus that turns the victims into zombie-vampire monsters. The origin of the virus is also underdeveloped. We learn that some creature in the woods bit a man, and that is supposedly how it all started. This opens up so many questions. What was the creature? Why do humans seem to be the only ones affected? Why hasn’t the virus reached outside the forest? It is good to leave some mystery for viewers, but this origin is simply too vague. Unfortunately, by trying to create something new and original, instead audiences will get something that is more confusing than anything else.

The origin of the creatures may be a bit fuzzy, but the creature design itself is pretty creepy. The makeup design does a great job of making each infected individual look similar, showing how the virus physically changes a person in the same way. The overall look reminds me of a vampire, but much more wild and ferocious than one would normally expect. The first time a creature is shown on screen is probably the most frightening part of the entire film. You can just barely make it out in the darkness as it stares down its victim. By the time you get a good look at the creature, it’s too late. There is also a healthy amount of blood and gore in the film. They do a great job of showing the attack wounds and how those eventually translate to an infected creature.

This film has some great actors who have made a name for themselves in the horror industry. Scout Taylor-Compton (Halloween, Cynthia) plays the main character, Alice. What makes Taylor-Compton’s performance stand out is how natural she portrays Alice. She is the most comfortable in the woods and remains cool under the most stressful circumstances, taking a natural leadership role in the group without any unnecessary bravado. She also has fantastic on-screen chemistry with Olivia Luccardi (It Follows, Chanel Zero: Butcher’s Block), who plays Jules. She stands out because Jules is the only one not part of the original group of friends. She is really only there because of her relationship with Alice. Luccardi portrays Jules as the outsider of the group, which makes her attempts to step up and be strong even more compelling. The most surprising performance of the film is Lew Temple (The Devil’s Rejects, 31) as Talbot. The character is interesting because Talbot functions as the harbinger archetype commonly found in horror films, but he is developed even further into a main character. Temple does a great job of making Talbot a strange mixture of sympathetic and ominous, which is not easy to achieve. The film has an overall well-rounded cast who know how to bring intensity to their performances.

Feral brings excitement and terror to the “monster in the woods” subgenre of horror. It successfully brings some elements to the plot that make it stand out from other similar films, such as including LGBTQ characters and changing up the familiar harbinger trope. There are also some standout performances from horror actors fans know and love, and creepy creature design that will make you not want to go into the woods. Where the film falls short is in the virus that creates the frightening creature. The underdeveloped background almost takes away from the fear of the virus and what it does because it simply doesn’t make sense. The film is entertaining enough, but it will likely be forgotten by the end of the year.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10

Hereditary

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Annie’s estranged mother has passed away. In the wake of the death, Annie and the rest of her family feel the effects of the loss. It leads to Annie’s mental state spiraling out of control as she experiences blow after blow. While learning new and bizarre things about her mother, it becomes clear that the death of the family matriarch caused a ripple effect that will change their lives forever.

Writer and director Ari Aster takes audiences on a strange and unexpected journey in his feature film debut. One of the most compelling aspects of the plot for Hereditary is that the story continues to surprise and go in unique directions. I made an effort to avoid all advertising for the film after the release of the initial trailer. With only this very limited exposure, I still had an idea of what I thought the film would be about. However, as soon as the film begins, all preconceived notions are thrown out the window. At regular intervals audiences will be shocked by events in the film that completely take the plot in new and thrilling directions. There are times when the film feels like a psychological film and other times it feels like a supernatural film; yet, every moment is filled with anxiety and paranoia. Each revelation gives new details into the horrifying events taking place, driving the plot forward as it zigs and zags in ways you never see coming. It is the kind of film that is difficult to truly explain without dissecting the plot, but that would lead to spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it yet.

This may not be what audiences and critics traditionally call “scary”; however, Hereditary is truly disturbing and terrifying to watch. Aster brilliantly chose to incorporate incredibly subtle details from start to finish. These details immediately put the audience on edge by letting them know something isn’t quite right, they just aren’t sure how yet. These details are also often downright frightening. The wrongness of what Aster puts on the silver screen is something that audiences are able to feel just as much as see. There is maybe only one genuine jump scare in the entire film, but regardless, the entire film overflows with images that make viewers feel the anxiety and fear right along with the characters. The film is filled with a genuine sense of dread, leaving you deeply unsettled in both a visceral and disturbing way, more so than any jump scare ever could.

Much of these subtle details and terrifying images come from the beautiful way in which the film is shot. There are numerous stunning transitions and ways in which various scenes are framed that both add beauty to the film while also emphasizing the more disturbing parts. Aster also perfectly utilizes miniatures, made by Annie in the film, seamlessly weaving between the real world and the miniature models of the real world. The sets and locations add to this as well. The house where the Graham family lives is gorgeous and dark, giving it an eerie feel even before anything weird happens. There is a very neutral, dark color pallet in the film casting a shadow over the entire family. Every location gives a sense of isolation, from the houses to the art supply store. Even the sparingly used practical effects are subtle and dark as they are meant to heighten the paranoia rather than startle or scare audiences. These elements truly make the film just as stunning as it is disturbing.

The plot is carried by some absolutely superb performances. Toni Collette (Krampus, The Sixth Sense) gives what could be the performance of her career as Annie. Annie has lived a difficult life filled with tragedy, thanks in large part to her bizarre mother. Collette does an amazing job of conveying Annie as a woman who inwardly is strong, but on the outside she appears to others as unstable. She plays with the audience, making us wonder if Annie is sane, or if she is just as disturbed as her mother was. In many of the more intense scenes, Collette is simply perfect in the way she displays emotion and terror and helplessness. It is as if the role was made for her. One of the most surprising performances came from Alex Wolff (My Friend Dahmer, Patriots Day) as Annie’s son, Peter. Watching how Peter reacts as his family slowly falls apart, as well as how he reacts to the increasingly strange happenings, is absolutely mesmerizing. This was an unexpected performance from Wolff, and it makes me look forward to seeing him in more films. Finally, there is Milly Shapiro, in her film debut as Charlie. Shapiro somehow makes Charlie come across as both innocent and eerie, which is no easy feat. It is never clear how much or how little Charlie knows about what is going on around her, and it only adds to the anxiousness of the plot. The entire cast gives the film a haunting and emotional edge.

Hereditary is a disturbing descent into madness that highlights all the best parts of the horror genre. It takes you in directions you never imagined, and it fills you with a deep sense of anxiety, all the while giving audiences a completely unique plot. Combined with fantastic performances and gorgeously dark visuals, it delivers the perfect horror film. I’m confident this film will reveal new revelations and insights each time it is watched, due to how perfectly Aster incorporated minute details that may be missed on the first (or even second) viewing. With how minimal Aster kept many aspects the film, it is hard to believe how truly effective and terrifying every moment is. There is not a single thing I would change about this film, and I honestly can’t wait to see it again. My biggest piece of advice for fans going into this film for the first time: try your hardest to absorb every precise detail on the screen. You never know what might be important later on.

OVERALL RATING: 10/10

Revenge

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Jen goes to an extravagant vacation house with her rich boyfriend. While there, her boyfriend’s friends show up early for their annual hunting trip. After a seemingly normal night of drinking, laughs, and dancing, things take a turn. Jen is attacked by one of the friends. After that moment everything spirals out of control, and Jen is left for dead. The men never expected her to survive, and they will soon come to regret it.

Rape-revenge films are fairly common in the thriller/horror genre. They all tend to follow certain rules and tropes, but French writer/director Coralie Fargeat brings audiences something fresh to her first feature-length film. This film being written and directed by a woman makes a huge difference in how not only the victim, but the rape itself is portrayed. One of the biggest differences is that, traditionally, the victims in these types of films are always sweet, virginal, innocent young women. In real life, women are not always the delicate victim in a white dress. Jen is very provocative with what she wears, she is flirtatious, and her boyfriend is a married man. Having an “imperfect” victim allows Fargeat to reinforce the idea that no always means no. It doesn’t matter if a girl was flirting with a man, or dancing with him, or anything else. When she says she does not want to have sex with a man, it needs to be respected. It is quite refreshing to see a more authentic character, and it only allows Fargeat to send a stronger message about rape culture. The final confrontation leaves the male in a vulnerable state while Jen is in a state of power, which makes it all the more satisfying to watch.

The rape scene itself is also treated much differently than in past films. In other films of the same genre the scenes are often long and drawn out to the point of making everyone in the audience very uncomfortable. While this is an effective method, Fargeat uses a different tactic. She made the decision to focus more on the events leading up to the rape. Then, during the act itself, everything is shown slightly out of focus. This allows the audience’s eye to be drawn to other things going on. One specific shot focuses simply on Jen’s hand against a sliding glass door as she is being attacked, but then the camera focuses on the reflection in the glass of another character going for a swim like nothing is happening. It is a tasteful and visually interesting way to film the scene.

The various character arcs are truly fantastic, and the performances make them even better. Matilda Lutz (Rings, The Fifth Wheel) plays Jen. When Jen is first introduced, she seems like just another party girl. As the film progresses, Lutz gets the chance to show Jen as a survivor. In a way, even her relationship with her married boyfriend is a method of survival. Lutz does a fantastic job of conveying Jen’s strength, especially in the climax of the film. Kevin Janssens (The Ardennes, Vermist) plays Jen’s boyfriend, Richard. What makes Janssens performance stand out is how, at first glance, he appears to be the perfect guy. As the film progresses, Janssens gets to show that Richard is a sociopath who cares for no one but himself. It is amazing to see the initial chemistry between Lutz and Janssens, and how quickly that all changes after Jen is attacked. Another compelling performance is from Vincent Colombe (Point Blank, My King) as Stan. Stan is Jen’s attacker. What I love about Colombe’s performance is how unwilling he was to face the consequences of attacking Jen. It is very satisfying to watch him continually fall apart as the film progresses, after letting his entitlement get the better of him.

The artistic aspects of Revenge are absolutely stunning. Much like the scene I described earlier, the cinematography brings a lot of beauty to the film. A large portion of the film is in a very stark, dead landscape, yet the way various scenes are shot brings everything to life. Even the sets chosen make the film gorgeous. The vacation house specifically gave the filmmakers a chance to really play with some fascinating angles and use of color. This is especially utilized in the climax for one of the most intense and breathtaking scenes of the entire film, putting an emphasis on bright colors, lots of blood, and amazing long-takes. The only true negative I can say for this film involves one visual element. At one point Jen uses a heated up beer can to cauterize a wound, leaving a burn impression on her skin of the beer logo. The problem is that the logo and lettering should be reversed, but when her skin is revealed it is not.

Another amazing artistic aspect is the film’s score. The score was composed by Rob, who is also known for scoring films such as Horns and Maniac. The electronic music, with very subtle 80’s vibes, goes will with some of the color choices used throughout the film. Rob’s music is fantastic because it blends in with the background when necessary. Yet, when the music really gets going, it elicits strong emotions in the audience (especially when it comes to getting behind Jen as she exacts her revenge). The score really only adds to the quality of the film and brings it to the next level.

Revenge is an intense, mesmerizing, and extremely brutal film. I can say without a doubt this film was my favorite at the International Horror and Sci-fi Film festival. Watching a rape-revenge film made by a woman made a huge difference in the film style and imagery, and it was for the better. Fargeat creates a compelling story with dynamic, raw characters. It sends a message about rape culture, while also being a stunning and entertaining film. The filmmaking, acting, artistry, and music make this film stand out from the crowd. Revenge is one you will not want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10