GORE IN THE STORE
VIOLATION - ***
Directed by Dusty Mancinelli & Madeleine Sims-Fewer.
Starring Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili.
Horror/Thriller, Canada, 107 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Acorn Media on 27th September 2021.
Rape/revenge thriller VIOLATION begins with a warning that what you are about to see is extreme in nature and viewer discretion is advised, the titillating nature of which is either going to excite you or put you off, depending on your tolerance for such things but seeing as you are about to watch a rape/revenge movie one would think you were prepared for the worst.
VIOLATION, however, is a slightly different take on the sub-genre made so infamous by the exploitative likes of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT by not being grubby and visually explicit. No, the nudity in this movie does not fall on the victim to provide but rather the perpetrator and not during the act itself, which is tastefully shot and reveals nothing except the filmmakers’ desire to trigger your senses with the power of suggestion, using extreme close-ups, quick cuts and intimate dialogue to get across what is going on, as well as two very important words with an even more important emphasis on the pause between them. They also use a non-linear structure to tell the story of Miriam (played by co-writer/director Madeleine Sims-Fewer), a troubled woman whose relationship with her husband Caleb (Obi Abili) seems to be coming to an end. The couple go to visit Miriam’s younger sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and her husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) in their secluded lakeside house but all is not well as Miriam and Caleb are clearly not getting on and there seems to be some tension between Miriam and Greta.
The thing is, it isn't really made clear when Miriam and Greta fell out or why because when we first see them they are getting along great and reminiscing about old times, but in the next scene they are arguing about non-specific events we haven't seen and that is where the confusion sets in. Amongst this scene-hopping we see Miriam setting traps for wild rabbits in the woods with Dylan before getting cosy with her brother-in-law by the fireside out in the wild. Then it flips to Miriam and Dylan apparently getting it on in the house when nobody else is about before we go back to Miriam fighting with her sister.
It is very clear that Madeleine Sims-Fewer and her co-writer/director Dusty Mancinelli have a vision for their story which, if you were to write and film it in a linear fashion without the arty landscape/wildlife interludes, would probably not run for half as long as it actually does in this jumbled manner. As admirable as their dedication to this structure is, it does tend to make scenes that should be full of tension feel quite neutered as they cut to something that we either have no prior knowledge of or we must figure out how we are going to get there as it might be something that hasn't happened yet.
But, and here is where VIOLATION scores highly, when we get to the revenge part of the story – you know, the bit where our protagonist gets the kind of justice that the law cannot provide and we, the audience, get our glorious fist-in-the-air moment of retribution – we see it from a different perspective. As previously stated, the rape itself is shot so we don't get to see too much but thanks to that vital piece of dialogue we know what has happened and we can now piece together the various narrative strands and figure out where this is all heading.
And once we get to Miriam’s revenge we are presented with some of the most startling practical effects as what Miriam’s helped Dylan do to capture rabbits earlier on is brought back into play, only this time is isn’t a cute little bunny that gets strung up. As far as brutality goes VIOLATION doesn’t overdo it but what is shown is so raw and realistic that it has an effect, contrasting with the peaceful nature of the gliding drone shots across the forests and lakes of their surroundings and highlighting how broken Miriam has become by the two men she is closest to betraying her trust.
With daring performances from Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Jesse LaVercombe, who apparently refused to wear a prosthetic penis (it is an important detail when you see the scene), and a sense of vision that, for better or worse, the filmmakers are going to see through until the bitter end, VIOLATION is an interesting addition to the rape/revenge sub-genre, fusing the art house symbolism, imagery and subliminal themes of Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST with a skewed narrative that isn’t as effective as the filmmakers probably intended and only really serves to make the movie a bit different from its grubbier grind house brethren, and also extend the run time. Nevertheless, for a debut feature it is a bold statement and, if nothing else, will provide plenty of discussion and analysis until Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer follow it up.