REVIEW: REVENGE (2017)

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REVENGE (2017)

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French thriller finds rich, handsome and married Richard (Kevin Janssens) spending a couple of days at his desert retreat with his pretty young lover, the vivacious Jennifer (Matilda Lutz) before a hunting trip. When his friends Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) show up a day early, they discover Richard’s little secret and Stan especially develops an attraction to the young woman. A night of partying finds Jennifer being flirtatious and friendly and Stan taking it way too seriously. With Richard away the following morning, Stan accosts and rapes Jenn while Dimitri ignores her cries for help. When Richard returns and the traumatized Jennifer threatens to tell Richard’s wife about everything, it only gets Jen pushed off a cliff and impaled on a branch. Badly injured and bleeding, Jennifer survives and when the three men come to ‘clean up their mess’, the hunters become the hunted.

Stylish and brutal thriller is directed by Coralie Fargeat from her own script. Let’s get out of the way that it is fairly preposterous that anyone could survive a fall that’s anywhere from thirty to forty feet and being impaled on a branch at it’s bottom. The trauma alone would be catastrophic, not to mention the loss of blood. If you can grant director Fargeat a little suspension of disbelief that Jennifer could survive and that her peyote-induced self surgery would heal her well enough to take on her well-armed and healthy pursuers, then you are in for an intense and blood-soaked revenge flick. It’s also one with some feminist commentary on how women are viewed. In the eyes of Richard and his buddies, Jennifer is fine as long as she’s being a sex kitten. When Stan violates her and she is distraught, suddenly it becomes an inconvenience to them that must be gotten rid of. We find that Jennifer is just a simple piece of meat to them…and it’s this arrogance and underestimation that allows a wounded Jennifer to get the upper hand and get armed herself. Coralie Fargeat is never exploitative with the material, but doesn’t ignore the exploitation elements as we do get plenty of blood spilled and Jennifer’s natural charms are not ignored either, even when transformed into a scantily clad Rambo. The rape scene is handled deftly and shows just enough to horrify and the tense and blood-drenched showdown between Jenn and Richard back at the maze of a house is riveting. On a technical level Fargeat makes great use of the desert locations and there is some stunning cinematography by Robrecht Heyvaert with a great electronic score by Rob.

The cast are all good here. Matilda Lutz is very strong as Jenn. She is a fiery and sexy young woman who transforms into a survivor and a killer when brutalized. The actress is beautiful and the film does focus on her natural charms, but she has a smoldering intensity that makes you believe Richard and friends might have tried to kill the wrong woman. Kevin Janssens is good as Richard. He seems like a charming man, though we can’t outright like him as he is cheating on his wife. Once his perfect life is threatened, we see the true colors of a cruel and vicious person. Janssens portrays this very well and we come to dislike him extremely. Same goes for Stan who is given the perfect amount of sleaze and creepiness by actor Vincent Colombe. Stan makes us uncomfortable from the start and his horrible act on Jennifer is no surprise. When she goes on the offensive, the coward within Stan is revealed. Last but not least, Guillaume Bouchède is also good as the lazy slob that is Dimitri. At first he just seems too apathetic to do the right thing, but during the hunt he reveals a man with a cruel streak who enjoys killing. All three men are detestable and we want to see their comeuppance. Good work from the small cast.

This isn’t the first film where a woman got revenge on those who defiled her. Films like I Spit on Your Grave and Ms. 45 had women violently serving justice on wrong-doers decades ago. It’s Coralie Fargeat’s approach, that is both stylish and yet unflinchingly brutal, that keeps the story effective. There is a feminist angle in the portrayal of how little regard these men have for the young woman, as if she is just a sex toy and one to be disposed of when they are done. A type of brutish thinking we see reflected in today’s headlines all too often. Jennifer proves them wrong. Matilda Lutz is a powder keg as Jennifer and the men who abused her certainly have it coming…and we are rooting for the young woman to give them their due. An intense and blood-soaked thriller from a director to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 bullets.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SCHERZO DIABOLICO (2015)

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SCHERZO DIABOLICO (2015)

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Latest film from Adrián García Bogliano (Here Comes The Devil, Late Phases) tells the story of Aram (Francisco Barreiro), who works for an accounting firm and despite being their best and hardest working employee, seems to be going nowhere. He hatches a devious plan to kidnap pretty Anabela (Daniela Soto Vell), his boss’s (Jorge Molina) teenage daughter. She’s not to be taken for ransom, but only to be held long enough to turn his boss into an emotional wreck, so that he looses his job and Aram can replace him. The kidnapping goes off without a hitch and as he holds the poor girl in an abandoned warehouse, he soon finds himself at the top of his firm and living the good life. But one thing Aram didn’t count on, was having pushed Anabela far enough over the edge that she would figure things out and come after him with a bloody vengeance.

Flick is a bit offbeat as is Bogliano’s style and doesn’t really get intense till the last act. It is disturbing to see how thoroughly Aram plans out the abduction, to the point of even practicing his timing on his son and his restraint techniques on a hooker he frequents regularly. We certainly feel for Anabela as he holds her against her will in a rat infested building and takes unsettling…and inappropriate… videos and photos of her to turn her dad into a mess. This takes up the first hour of the flick and is fine, but the film really doesn’t take off till he releases Anabela thinking he has it made. He has a beautiful home, his secretary/lover (Pau Alva) set up in a nice apartment…and a really pissed off schoolgirl who figures things out and plans a far more vicious payback. This is where the film finally kicks into gear and one wishes this plot element was brought in a little sooner, as it really doesn’t seem like we are given enough time to savor Anabela’s brutal revenge…though we did need time spent to understand how a sweet kid got so violently unraveled. Aram’s cruel treatment of the innocent girl pales in comparison to the payback she exacts and there is some very brutal violence as the now psychotic girl turns the tables in a game of cat and mouse. Again, while the film is an economical 90 minutes, this segment could have used a bit more time as she turns the screws.

The film has a few obvious flaws. One of them is plainly that if Aram has the balls to kidnap a young girl..and cheat on his wife (Milena Pezzi) with a voluptuous hooker (Vita Vargas)…than why did he not have the stones to stick up for himself at work and demand his due? Why go through the whole kidnapping ordeal and involve an innocent girl?…just stand up to your boss! Also, where are the police during all this? The girl is kidnapped and held for what appears to be weeks and yet the cops are mentioned only in a brief throwaway line, after the fact. We never get to see them question the office workers to potentially see Aram squirm. Perhaps Bogliano thought this was too cliché…and he wouldn’t be wrong…but it seemed out of place that the police barely figure into the film till Anabela’s revenge has her breaking into Aram’s office to mess with him…then they show up. That and for a schoolgirl, the pushed over the edge Anabela proves quite the little terminator. While it’s disturbing and fun to watch, it’s also a little hard to swallow that she can easily take out two gangsters who have obviously killed before. We also never get a proper grasp of how much time lapses as Anabela  scopes out Aram to discover all his habits…like he did her…and secrets, like where he keeps his mistress and important files. It gives the last act a feeling of being rushed after taking so much time with the set-up.

The cast are all good. Francisco Barreiro’s Aram is a little bit of a contradiction as mentioned. He is a hard worker, but very meek in standing up to his boss or his wife, yet has the guts to cheat on that wife and stage a daring and mean-spirited kidnapping. The actor does a good job, though, especially when we get to see him squirm, as the tables are turned in the last act. Daniela Soto Vell also shines as a typical teen thrust into a horrible situation. We feel for her as she is held prisoner by Aram and we see her slowly crack. Then when a twist of fate sends her over the edge and on the path to vicious revenge, she is quite good as schoolgirl turned psychotic killer. Pezzi is good as Aram’s demanding wife and she plays it just low key enough to not send her into over-the-top cliché territory. Rounding out, Molina is solid as the boss/heartbroken father, Vargas is hot and sexy as Aram’s hooker lover and so is Alva as his secretary/mistress…which brings up another point…kinda hard to believe that bookish Aram was getting so many caliente mamas, if he can’t even ask for a raise.

Overall, this is a fairly entertaining flick with some disturbing moments, especially in the last act. The lead character is a bit of a contradiction, but Daniela Soto Vell’s Anabela impresses with her schoolgirl turned unbalanced killer. The kidnapping portion of the film is done well enough, though it is the last act where the film really ignites and we wish a little more time was spent with this portion of the story, too. There are some flaws in it’s story telling, but it still entertains despite that. Definitely worth a look, especially if you have enjoyed Adrián García Bogliano other movies

-MonsterZero NJ

3 baseball bats.

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REVIEW: BOUND TO VENGEANCE (2015)

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BOUND TO VENGEANCE (2015)

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Bound To Vengeance is a vicious and intense revenge thriller with a powder keg of a leading lady. Pretty young Eve (Tina Ivlev) has been kidnaped, held and abused for six months by creepy Phil (Richard Tyson) and his associates. One day she escapes and turns the tables, chaining Phil up in the very dungeon he’s kept her in. Rummaging through Phil’s desert house, she finds evidence that he has other girl’s imprisoned elsewhere. Now Eve takes Phil hostage on a road trip to rescue the other girls, but discovers something far worse than she ever imagined…including a path to bloodthirsty vengeance that she may never be able to turn back from.

This is a nasty little thriller as directed by Jose Manuel Cravioto from a script by Rock Shaink Jr. and Keith Kjornes. The narrative begins with Eve’s daring escape and violently taking control of her former captor, then let’s us get to know the sweet girl before her abduction and what happened to her during her time with Phil with flashbacks inter-spliced throughout the story. This gradully let’s us see how the pretty young girl transformed into the calculated and cold blooded angel of revenge that we are now watching…a girl capable of some vicious acts of violence against Phil and his associates. The script also has some fairly shocking surprises for us and an interesting look at how the abduction and mistreatment of these young woman effected them differently. Not all of them are happy to see Eve. Obviously there is also some disturbing violence as Eve vents her rage against what appears to be an increasingly large network of creeps that Phil works amongst. Obviously there is a much larger picture here than just a perv shopping for young girls and we discover it as does Eve. It’s an intense and blood-spattered road to revenge led by a really powerful turn by our heroine…a heroine forever changed and not necessarily for the best.

To say that Tina Ivlev is a pure stick of dynamite in this flick is an understatement. We see a young woman strengthened by her abduction and abuse to the point of viciously delivering payback to those responsible. We see a sweet and energetic young woman filled with vitality and dreams in the flashbacks of footage with her sister and boyfriend, then return to the present narrative as this sweet girl wields guns, bricks and various tools with equal brutality and lethality…and Ivlev gives her that sweetness and rage in equally effective doses. This actress has major potential. Tyson is perfectly creepy as Phil and even, at times, gets us to feel a little sorry for him as he is a small cog in a disturbingly bigger wheel, yet bares much of Eve’s anger. He deserves it, no question, but Tyson gives him some depth…especially when Eve’s vengeance gets shockingly personal.

This film took me quite by surprise. I was expecting something fairly routine, but got something far more layered and with some truly disturbing surprises. We watch a sweet girl transformed into a calculated killer who has no problem viciously dispatching those who have wronged her and other young women. It’s a brutal and blood-soaked ride where the evil that men do transforms one of their intended victims into the object of their own comeuppance. Recommend, but be warned it is a nasty little flick. Also stars Bianca Malinowski as ‘Lea’ another captive Eve rescues.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 (out of 4) bullets.

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REVIEW: VENDETTA (2015)

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VENDETTA (2015)

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Vendetta is an action/revenge drama and is the second collaboration between WWE Studios and The Soska Sisters (American Mary, See No Evil 2). The story has celebrated Chicago cop Mason Danvers (Dean Cain) finally taking down the crime syndicate duo of Victor (Paul “The Big Show” Wight) and Griffen (Aleks Paunovic) Abbott. Three months later, an important witness vanishes and so does the case against The Abbott Brothers. Victor wastes no time and shows up at Danver’s house and murders the cop’s pregnant wife (Kyra Zagorsky) before the detective and police arrive and arrests him. A distraught Mason then tracks down Griffen Abbott and kills him in cold blood. The revenge minded cop is now sent to the Stonewall Correctional Facility…the same prison that is now home to Victor Abbott…and sets on a path to vengeance.

The Soska Sisters directing duo are two of the more original filmmakers around right now, as is their American Mary one of the most original horror flicks in quite some time. All the more disappointing that they chose such a routine action/revenge flick as their latest project. Written by Justin Shady it is a very straightforward prison-set story of vengeance and gives the Soska Sisters little opportunity to be…well, The Soska Sisters. The directors keep the film moving at a nice click. It’s only twenty minutes before Danvers is in prison and the hi-jinx between he and crime lord Abbott begin. Once behind the prison walls, though, it becomes a series of by-the-numbers fight, beating and murder scenes that start to grow a bit tiresome, when mixed with the been-there-done-that drama in between. As we move towards the eventual showdown, which is also a bit of a letdown, too, considering the build-up, we get very little we haven’t seen before in this type of flick. We also get a very predictable sub-plot about Abbott’s real boss and even that is revealed far too soon to give it real impact and the whole bit about Danvers and his wife trying to conceive…and succeeding right before she’s killed…is beyond cliché. Add to it that the film gets wrapped up very conveniently and we have a movie that is a far cry from what we enjoy watching the Soska’s do. It’s technically well-made and was never boring, but never felt like a Soska Sisters film. There was none of the dark humor and off-the-wall uniqueness that made American Mary such an original film.

As for the cast, I enjoyed watching Dean Cain as a bad-ass. Bulked up and with some facial hair covering his boyish good looks, he surprisingly made a very solid tough guy. WWE Superstar The Big Show is fun to watch as the massive Victor Abbott and is convincing as the vicious and cruel criminal. He also gives us a lively characterization of a routinely written villain. Michael Eklund is very eccentric as Warden Snyder, but despite an off-beat portrayal, the character revelations are not all that surprising and actually make him less interesting, when all is said and done. The supporting cast are all fine as various prison guards, thugs and inmates. Again, in a Soska Sisters film, I expected far more interesting characters, but this isn’t their script.

I understand the Soska’s doing this to keep their relationship with WWE pictures strong, but wish they either picked a more interesting project…like their proposed film with WWE’s horror movie inspired Wyatt Family…or at least been allowed to do a draft of the script to add their quirky/morbid style. Their previous WWE Studios film See No Evil 2 was more up their alley and felt very much like a Soska film despite them not writing the screenplay. They seemed to feel more at home directing that and just seemed more like going through the motions here. The film is still amusing at times and I was never outright bored, but I’d seen it all before and that’s something I’d never thought I’d say about a Soska Sisters film.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 bullets.

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