If you went only from the first 25 minutes of the colorfully harsh new indie horror movie Avenged (known in the UK as Savaged), you’d probably be tempted to dismiss it as yet another effectively ugly, bleak, and unpleasant “rape / revenge” movie – but that’d be a pretty stupid thing to do. Who the hell judges a whole film on the first 25 minutes?
As a person who has a pretty short attention span for movies that wallow in rape and degradation, I was pleased to notice that Michael S. Ojeda’s Avenged had more on its mind than just sexual abuse. Sure, the film starts out much like films called I Spit On Your Grave or The Last House on the Left (a pretty young woman is brutally attacked by a gang of scummy backwoods hicks), and, yes, it ends Act I with a quick, disturbing rape scene, but even at the peak of its gruesomeness, there’s still a small sense of restraint.
And that’s what helps Avenged go from a potential “rape flick” to a broad yet brutal action/horror flick that, believe it or not, comes off feeling a whole lot like a suitably entertaining gender-reversal on The Crow (1994). Generally pitched like a gruff indie comic book (and sometimes delving into straight cornball parody), Avenged follows poor deaf Zoe (Amanda Adrienne) as she is kidnapped, brutalized, left for dead, resurrected by a mystical Native American, and unleashed upon the villains with a righteous fury that, while pretty darn simplistic, is still rather viscerally entertaining.
And viscera is one of the things Avenged has going for it. Aside from an athletic and tough performance from Ms. Adrienne, Avenged also features some truly despicable villains, a handful of intentionally eye-rolling dialogue, a quick, energetic score – and a lot of grisly, gory carnage. Director Ojeda is a veteran cinematographer, which explains why Avenged has some nice shadows and compositions for such a low-budget horror flick, but the film is at its best when undead Zoe is slicing her way through various necks, faces, and entrails.
Call it a rape/revenge movie with an occult twist, or a simple slasher flick with a little something to say about the hidden power of certain minorities (like deaf women and Native Americans), but at the very least Avenged is a harsh and dark low-budget horror flick that, for all its familiarity, still has a compelling enough moral compass to keep things interesting.
Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)
AVENGED will be released in the US theatrically (LA only) and digitally on March 6, and is available (as SAVAGED) in the UK now.