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HOT AND STILL NOT YOURS: Revenge (2017)

By Audrey Lorber   February 12, 2024

The revenge subgenre is a tricky one. A lot of people dislike it for very valid reasons. The rape scenes are often exploitative and long, and if a man ever tells me he likes the subgenre, I’d be concerned and probably never talk to him again. But as a woman, I find these movies to be empowering. And if you’re looking for an amazing revenge movie, look no further than Revenge (2017).

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Written and directed by French woman filmmaker Coralie Fargeat, Revenge follows a girl who seeks vengeance after being raped in the desert. The movie has a lot of intentional symbolism and notably spends a lot more runtime on the revenge than the assault. This movie illustrates that women can be promiscuous and beautiful and smile at you, but they do not want to have sex with you, and they are certainly undeserving of your predatory looks let alone assault. That’s another thing I love about this revenge movie that’s different from a lot of the past. Women in these movies used to start off extremely docile and prude-ish like Carrie before taking the power into their own hands. Jen starts this movie off in power.


She steps off the helicopter, and we are introduced to Jen. She very much has a Jennifer’s Body-esc look in the beginning of the film. Bold earrings and hot pink crop tops make up the majority of her wardrobe. And I love it. She’s pretty and she’s sexual and that’s the reason she’s here. She’s having an affair with Richard, who seems nice for now, taking her to this modern, wicked ranch in the middle of a desert. This brings to mind Carol J. Clover’s analysis of “the city rat goes to the country” trope in many horror movies. [1]

This new landscape and environment should naturally benefit the men who are familiar with it, and yet it’s Jen who skillfully  uses caves and lakes to her advantage.

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Just like Eve, she takes a bite of the apple right as our story begins. Eve supposedly took a bite of the apple, damning women for all eternity, because she was tempted into sin by the evil serpent. But, this apple opens Eve’s eyes to the truth. Jennifer drops the apple and the glass in her other hand, surprised by the two men staring back at her on the other side of the glass walls. The glass shatters into pieces on the floor. Richard breaks the tension and everyone smiles and parties into the night. Jennifer is uninhibited, dancing flirtatiously and confidently for her audience. She dances because she wants to dance, not because she feels like she has to. She even dances a little for Stan before Richard whisks her away, throwing her over his shoulder, “Now it’s my turn”. Yuck.

The next day, when Jen wakes up, Richard is gone, Dimitri is nursing a hangover silently in the pool, and Stan awaits her at the table for breakfast. Stan’s eyes and smile are predatory and disgusting, the kind women know to be fearful of. He walks in on her while she is changing and sits down next to her on the foot of the bed. It’s uncomfortable. Jen has been stripped of her power and the second she denies his advancements, he begins the insults. Insulting her job, intelligence, and promiscuity. There’s one big distinction between genders in times of fear: when women are afraid of men, they fear for their lives.

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Earlier, Richard said “It would be much easier if the children weren’t there,” referring to his marriage and the affair he’s having. He blames the innocent around him instead of taking responsibility for his actions. Later, once she rejects his job offer in Canada to make up for the rape, he tells her “to stop acting like a child”. And then of course, he decides it would be much
easier if she, just like his children, weren’t there despite being the reason she is there at all. He and the boys follow her to the edge of a cliff, and then he unremorsefully pushes her off the edge and onto a small tree. The tree top pierced into her back and through her stomach on the other side. She looks as good as dead. But she’s a final girl and she’s not going down without a fight.

Final girls have a lot in common, but my favorite is using their keen attention skills to outwit their killer. Ants attracted to her blood, gather around the open wound in her abdomen where the top of the tree is pointing out. The ants come to her just like they did the apple scene earlier, as it sat on the counter, rotting from after her first and only bite. She manages to lasso her lighter into her grasp using wired earbud headphones. She lights the tree below her on fire so the branch she’s on breaks allowing her to escape. She doesn’t need to make it far for right now. Right now, she just pulls herself flush up to the bottom of the wall of the cliff she fell from. This is major final girl energy because this means the boys, ready to hunt down their prey, can’t see her when they look over the edge of the cliff.

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It takes them until it’s dark to get to the bottom of the cliff where the tree she was once stuck on is. She’s nowhere near here. The boys follow her blood trail to a lake. Outwit again. They decide to split up. According to Carol J. Clover, something happens when men are in a group.[2]  They often become more violent like in I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left.
 

Rapists and killers like to hunt women in packs. It is not surprising then that Stan waits for Richard, the alpha male of the group, to leave the house before he takes advantage of her. The two are not completely alone as Dimitri even walks in on the assault and does nothing. This implicates him, making him just as deserving of his fate. She sneaks up on Dimitri as he relieves himself in a lake. They get into it and she stabs him in the eye! Let’s go! This is symbolic as he saw her getting assaulted and did nothing to stop it. Now, she’ll rape him in the eye with her knife. She jocks his motorbike, rides it until it runs out of gas, and finds herself a cave to take shelter in. She takes peyote removes the branch still lodged in her stomach from the fall onto the tree, and cauterizes the wound with a beer can. Badass!


Once the other two find the body of their dead friend, Richard sinks his body in the lake uncaringly. Jen emerges from her cave, armed and scantily clad in her now blood-soaked-black clothes. And she’s still hot. She outsmarts these men again and again. Whether it’s breaking the car headlights, shattering its glass on the floor for an unsuspecting, raging barefoot Stan running after her, or anticipating the bleeding Richard’s whereabouts and not walking unwittingly into his trap by clocking the blood pooling from around the corner.

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Audrey E. Lorber (she/her) is a Brooklyn based video producer, film editor, and award-winning independent filmmaker. She grew up in Staten Island, NY and has made a name for herself in the indie horror community. She is always writing her next short film and is drawn most to animation, post production, screenwriting, and the horror genre.

“Women always have to put up a fucking fight”. These are Richard’s last words. This underrated, directorial debut is a modern standout in the revenge subgenre. It’s a bloody, surreal, and poignant story of a confident woman out for retribution.

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