Revenge review: French horror is a masterclass in payback

Revenge review: French horror is a masterclass in payback

Coralie Fargeat takes the revenge genre up a notch with an enduring action-packed thrill ride that goes well beyond simple vengeance.

A battle-worn, ravaged woman wanders through the desert, a resolute grimace on her face and a determined inflection to her walk. Her name is Jen (Matilda Lutz) and she is out for revenge.

It is ironic Coralie Fargeat’s horror has the simple title of Revenge, because it is anything but. The plot, too, sounds relatively straightforward. Jen is enjoying a weekend away in a remote villa in the desert with her rich married boyfriend (Kevin Janssens). However, when his friends unexpectedly turn up for a hunting session, she becomes the victim of a torrent of abuse. Now left for dead she looks to exact vengeance on the men that wronged her.

Fargeat’s masterful way of revealing inner layers around this simple narrative is what makes Revenge stand-out, it’s circling themes get more all-encompassing as the film reaches its explosive (and blood-soaked) conclusion. A lot of this is down to Fargeat’s use of symbolic visualisation – Jen begins the movie by using her body for the simple pleasure of the male gaze but when that body is abused, she realises just how strong it (and she) are, shedding layers of clothing not to entice someone of the opposite sex, but to aid in wreaking bloody revenge on them.

Moreover than hidden meanings and symbolism, Revenge is a thrilling ride – the action never really lets up and the atmosphere is as heavy as the hot sun that bears down on the characters, with an underlying synth-heavy score that exacerbates this. The acting, too, is superb, especially our central character of Jen (Lutz is outstanding in the role – naturally switching from prey to predator as her options become more limited) and Janssens is fantastic as the twisted Richard whose disarming charm makes him all the more dangerous.

Revenge is a class-act in filmmaking – contorting a seemingly simple rape revenge story into a movie that has the ability to leave some viewers with unnerving reflections on just how strong or cruel people can really be once they have been stripped (both metaphorically and literally) of the trappings of consumerism and social standing.

Revenge’s limited edition Blu-ray box set is out now from Second Sight Films. For more on Revenge, see our interview with director and writer Coralie Fargeat here.