Sundance 2021: Violation

I hardly know what to say or indeed what can be said about a movie such as this.

We have watched many horror films at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and seen buckets of blood shed, sometimes literally. Why, then, is this the first one that required me to manually enter my birthday, verifying my age? It’s the dick, of course. Americans will tolerate all kinds of blood and guts and gore, but an erect penis makes them shy. This movie, be warned, will have all of the above, and more.

Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) and husband Caleb (Obi Abili) are on the brink of divorce and are visiting her younger sister Greta (Anna Maguire), who almost seems to rub her happy marriage to Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) in her face. Not intentionally, I’m sure, but they’re happy, they’re intimate, their relationship is a stark contrast to Miriam’s, which has been cold and dispassionate for months. One night, after a few drinks by the fire, Miriam opens up to Dylan, and the confession turns flirty, the two sharing a kiss before falling asleep by the fire. The next morning, Miriam wakes to Dylan fucking her. Raping her, in fact, though he’ll later tell her it was mutual, that she’d seemed into it, despite being unconscious. This betrayal is the basis for Miriam’s revenge plan, which will be both brutal and elaborate.

Miriam’s tools include a baseball bat, a hoist, a cooler, a motel toilet, but most of all, the sense of outrage and indeed of violation in her heart, powerful motivators indeed.

Violation is as savage as any horror I’ve ever seen, but with a female director (Sims-Fewer co-directs with Dusty Mancinelli) in charge, there are suddenly new aspects to vengeance that we haven’t seen on screen before. Miriam is perhaps emotionally elusive, methodical but still very much guided by a ruinous thirst for revenge. The true horror is of course in the honest way the aftermath of trauma is exposed. Violation is purposely difficult to watch, and even harder to swallow, but that’s because it’s rooted very much in reality, and reenacts what for most victims can only be fantasy. It is deeply unsettling because the emotional damage is just as raw and ruthless as the physical wounds inflicted. It’s the kind of film that dares you to flinch, but as tough as it may be to watch, it may actually hide some valuable if disturbing insight.

Violation will be available via Shudder on March 25 2021.

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