It’s a rare treat to be given an indie horror film which is so accomplished and confident with its subject matter. Avenged (aka Savaged) tells the story of a deaf and mute woman who ventures out across America only to be taken by a group of men and brutally raped. So far, so standard for a rape & revenge movie… but then things change. Instead of the woman escaping and then coming back to seek revenge she is killed and buried only to be resurrected a la The Crow and then, whilst channeling the spirit of a famed Apache warrior, sets about trying to punish those who wronged her before her zombiefied body completely falls apart. Oh and there’s a love story thrown in for good measure.
Now on paper this combination really shouldn’t work at all and yet director Michael S. Ojeda handles the material with a sure hand and displays a confidence with each element of the story that ensures nothing feels underdeveloped nor overbearing. The horror naturally goes hand in hand with the action scenes and the love story element is just present enough to have impact without being pushed too much and dominating the overall film. This is a horror film first and foremost, and the bloody and disgusting elements of the story certainly do their job. But a lot of the horror comes from the situation our hero finds herself in as this is a character-driven piece. It was such a joy to see a lead female role in a rape and revenge film who not only wasn’t exploited but who is thoroughly fleshed out, layered, and is played by an actress who is capable of taking us through a real variety of emotional places.
Amanda Adrienne is a wonderful discovery here as the film’s protagonist. As I understand it this is her first lead role in a feature and yet an awful lot is asked of her; firstly she must pull of the tricky task of inoffensively and convincingly playing a deaf and mute character, which isn’t easy. Then she has to quickly establish a relatable character before then taking us through the brutalisation which is afflicted upon her. Once she has mastered all of that she then has the rest of the film to deal with as a zombiefied, revenge-driven and partially possessed corpse, which without giving away spoilers is no simple task either. The fact that she is equally convincing across all aspects means that I can’t sing her praises enough and I’m looking forward to what she takes on next.
As to the rest of the film there’s very little that lets it down. The film looks and sounds like it was made on a much bigger budget than it actually was, it’s got a tight script which never wastes our time and the acting from our villains is uniformly great. It’s a pleasure to have a character go up against a group of bad guys all of whom are distinctively characterised and which we can hold different levels of hatred and empathy for. There are a couple of moments where the acting isn’t great from a couple of supporting players but that’s very rare and the film quickly irons those problems out as it goes on. By the end I was surprised to find myself as wrapped up in the love story as I was the horror and action scenes.
So my advise is that you try and check out Avenged if you’re a horror fan who is looking for something a little different or an action fan who doesn’t mind some gruesome horror scenes. It’s not a film for everybody but it will really delight its target audiences.
What is the film’s greatest strength? It’s hard to pick between Adrienne and the script… perhaps her?
Its greatest weakness? The few weaker acting moments that occur early on in the film.
Would I see it again? Yes, absolutely. I’m looking forward to catching Avenged again.
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