The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - VIOLATION | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - VIOLATION

violation review
A woman returns to the scene of her sexual assault with revenge in mind.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli

Starring: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Jesse LaVercombe, Anna Maguire, Obi Abili

violation poster

If a thriller opens with a bird's eye shot of its protagonists driving down a tree-lined road, you know they're in for trouble. If their destination is a secluded cabin by a lake? Uh-oh! Violation, the feature debut of directing duo Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli, opens with its protagonist, Miriam (Sims-Fewer), driving down a tree-lined road to the secluded lakeside cabin of her estranged younger sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and brother-in-law Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe), and boy does the movie cash in on those early warning signs.

violation review

Miriam is accompanied by her husband Caleb (Obi Abili), but it seems their marriage is all but over. Miriam spends most of her time with her sister, reminiscing about their childhood in London. One night, Miriam finds herself lying by a fire with Dylan, and in a drunken moment attempts to kiss him. Though she immediately expresses regret, Miriam's alcohol fuelled lapse leads to an incident that will affect herself and Dylan in brutal ways.

Violation does for the rape-revenge genre what Haneke's Funny Games did for home invasion thrillers. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli want us to consider the reality of revenge, the messiness of violence, and how an act of vengeance can scar its perpetrator as much as the crime they're seeking revenge for. Their camera doesn't flinch as we watch Miriam take revenge. Though she's planned it with all the meticulous precision of a Columbo villain, she hasn't considered just how difficult it is to kill someone. Like the infamously protracted killing in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, Miriam's victim is forced to suffer a brutal, prolonged demise. Having studied Dylan's rabbit-trapping skills, Miriam employs the same methods to dispose of the human corpse as you might use to prepare a rabbit for a stew. It's gruesome stuff, all the more harrowing for how much thought Miriam has put into this plan.

violation review

Where rape-revenge movies generally make it easy to empathise with their victims turned avenging angels, Violation stirs things up by adding a heavy dash of nuance to the stew. As with Coppola's The Conversation, the inciting incident is based on the disparate interpretation of a couple of words. "Don't, stop" is misheard as "Don't stop", or perhaps it's heard correctly and conveniently ignored. Whatever about Miriam's aggressor turned victim, things are complicated even further when she attempts to rape her husband in the immediate aftermath of her own assault.

Much like Funny Games, I fundamentally disagree with the thesis at play here. Violation's deconstruction of the rape-revenge movie suggests it believes we can't separate fantasy from reality. Where Coralie Fargeat's Revenge was a woman filmmaker telling us that it's okay, perhaps even necessary, to enjoy rape-revenge movies, Violation tells us we're sickos for indulging such a vigilante instinct. But when we cheer on a woman for taking violent revenge against her male aggressors, we're not literally saying we believe that every victim of abuse should take such actions. I believe in due process and the rule of law, but that doesn't make for a very appealing grindhouse thriller. In the real world I want to see women find justice through the courts, but onscreen I'd much rather see their violent fantasies indulged. This is partly why fiction exists, so that we can continue to sate our primal instincts in a civilised age.

violation review

While I may disagree with Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli's thesis, I applaud their presentation of it and their willingness to add to the debate. If they set out to make us consider the gruesome reality of revenge and how the real world doesn't reductively consist of goodies and baddies, then they certainly made their point. They're very clever in their subversion of the stock imagery of rape-revenge movies, presenting us with a male victim who is as naked and vulnerable as all the women we've seen in this sub-genre, and Sims-Fewer and LaVercombe's performances similarly blur the traditional gender roles we're accustomed to. Yep, Violation sure gets it point across. I'm just not sure it's a point that needs to be made to anyone adult enough to be able to separate reality from fantasy.

 is on Shudder from March 25th.

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