The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - RAVAGE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - RAVAGE

ravage review
A wildlife photographer fights for her life after witnessing a sadistic crime.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Teddy Grennan

Starring: Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Bruce Dern, Eric Nelsen, Robert Longstreet, Joshua Brady

ravage poster

Modern attempts to replicate the grindhouse thrills of the 1970s tend to fail because the filmmakers have an elevated ideal of exploitation filmmaking. They usually resemble movies inspired by the posters for grindhouse movies, which promised over the top thrills, rather than the movies themselves, which due to their budgets were usually down and dirty and intimate affairs. Writer/director Teddy Grennan's Ravage is the real deal, a movie that feels like it could slot neatly into a season of rednecksploitation movies alongside the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Gator Bait and Southern Comfort, while also bearing the influence of Ozploitation and the more recent movement of New French Extremism.

ravage review

We open in media res with our heroine, wildlife photographer Harper (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), bandaged from head to toe in a hospital bed, having apparently survived a burning. An investigating local cop (Michael Weaver) brushes her off as a meth-head who likely set her lab on fire, but Harper forces him, and the audience through flashbacks, to listen to her story of how she stumbled upon a group of yokels torturing another man while she was taking nature pics in a remote valley of rural Virginia.

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After sneakily taking a few snapshots, Harper legs it to the nearest town where she is about to inform the local sheriff of what she witnessed, but something makes her think twice. I guess she's familiar with movies like this, in which nobody in a small town should be trusted, especially not the Sheriff. While sitting in her pickup truck, her vehicle is towed all the way back to the pig farm of Ravener (Robert Longstreet), the man whose sadistic acts she caught on camera. Managing to escape, Harper soon realises the only way out of the valley is through Ravener's farm. Using her experience of working in some of the world's most hostile terrain, Harper turns the tables on her attackers as she fights her way to freedom.

ravage review

Movies of this ilk rely heavily on inventiveness to stand out from the crowd, and in this aspect Grennan displays as much ingenuity as his heroine. Harper comes up with ways to dispatch her antagonists that would make John Rambo jealous, luring them into high speed decapitations and leaping salmon-like from rivers before blowing their brains out. It's not just our heroine who crafts inventive ways to kill though, as you'll see in the climax, where Grennan comes up with a means of slowly killing someone that will have you wondering if the filmmaker should be allowed out in polite society.

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Another important aspect of a movie like this is the casting of its female lead. If we don't buy that she can take on a bunch of big burly men, the whole endeavour falls apart. As played by English actress Dexter-Jones, we never doubt for a second that Harper can look after herself. Spending much of her screen time running like Tom Cruise is chasing her, she's required to deliver a physically challenging performance and fully convinces us that she should be competing in triathlons between acting gigs. Yet the movie has the good sense to maintain Harper's vulnerability and fear throughout, even when she's getting the drop on men twice her size. Grennan's tight script never gives her any post kill one-liners, which helps to maintain the sense of realism the film largely trades in.

ravage review

Coming in under 85 minutes with relentless pacing and a minimum of dialogue, Ravage doesn't reinvent the grindhouse wheel in the manner of Coralie Fargeat's Revenge, but it does give it a shiny new set of hubcaps. In Dexter-Jones' Harper it gives us one of the more convincing action heroines of recent years, and in Grennan it signals the arrival of a filmmaker who understands what makes genre filmmaking work. Jacques Brautbar's cacophonous score is also a thing of brutal beauty.

Ravage is on UK Digital from October 5th.

2020 movie reviews