Set in a remote, woodsy cabin on a lake, the rape-revenge film “Violation,” now streaming on Shudder, is an uncompromising, provocative film that uses a broken timeline, remote locations and graphic violence to tell a story of trauma.
Written, produced, and directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli, “Violation” begins with two couples on a weekend get-a-way. Miriam (Sims-Fewer) and Caleb (Obi Abili), a married couple on the brink of divorce, join her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and brother-in-law Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) at a family retreat in rural Quebec. The sisters have a fraught relationship and an underlying atmosphere of tension hangs heavy. The morning after night of drinks around the campfire Miriam wakes up as Dylan rapes her. Devastated, Miriam exacts revenge.
“Violation” is a tough watch.
Cruel and hallucinatory, it changes the channel from exploitation to a study of the way Miriam processes her trauma. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli go deep, using shifts in the colour palette, disquieting, extreme close-ups and nature and insect symbolism to visually add to the sense of unease.
For the bulk of the film Sims-Fewer’s raw performance is played out in dialogue free sequences, placing the focus on her actions and unspoken motivations, but never providing the pay-off typically associated with revenge dramas. That makes “Violation” is something different.
A rape-revenge film that does away with the male gaze, it doesn’t sexualize its female protagonist, which changes the dynamics of what could have been a straightforward genre piece. There is an unnecessary late movie twist and some clumsy exposition early on, but as an honest portrait of a woman who turns to retaliatory violence because she feels powerless, it’s chilling.