Sundance 2021 – Violation

Just a heads up, I’m going to use the words “brutal” and “visceral” way too many times in this review because that is simply what this movie is. An absolutely unforgiving examination of revenge and the gruesome necessary lengths to go for it to be achieved, Violation is a massively impressive debut for writer/directors Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dustin Mancinelli. I saw some shit in this movie that I will not unsee, and I applaud it for that. Violation is visceral and brutal without being gratuitous.

Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) and her husband Caleb (Obi Abili) are on the edge of divorce. They visit Miriam’s sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and her husband Dylan (Jesse Lavercombe) at their remote lake house, and after a shocking act of sexual violence against Miriam, she begins a long path towards revenge.

It sounds vague because I don’t want to give anything away. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli weave together two different timelines to pull us intimately into Miriam’s head as her world is fractured. Nightmarish nature imagery punctuates passages that viscerally bring us into the nightmare Miriam is living. Jarring editing and imagery are used effectively throughout to further seep us into her journey. 

In a better world we’d already be given Madeleine Sims-Fewer awards buzz, but we all know how they feel about horror and genre films. Fuck em. The acting across the board is terrific, but it’s Sims-Fewer especially who’s fantastic here. Every interaction and reaction Miriam has feels honest and authentic, and Sims-Fewer is able to keep you right with her thought processes and psyche in sequences without dialogue with the raw emotion on her face and body. There are moments where she’s in shock and horror of what she’s doing, and it is gutting. The final shot of her is absolutely haunting, several different emotions flicker across her face as you’re unsure if she’s achieved a sort of catharsis or not. There’s a mumblecore quality to how the dialogue between the cast feels authentic. You don’t feel like they’re just reciting lines at each other, you immediately feel that these characters have known each other all their lives. 

The film features massively impressive, damn near impeccable makeup and prosthetic effects when it comes to the bloodier and gorier moments. Some of those effects did not look like effects, making the scenes featuring them all more brutal and visceral. Without giving anything away, there is a process shown in this film that is the most brutal and visceral portrayal of that process I’ve seen since Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death. If you know, you know. There were multiple sequences in this film that had me yelling at my TV in shock and horror. It had me looking like this gif of Andre the Giant at times. Again, brutal and visceral are the words here, and it takes those terms to some real extremes. 

Good on Shudder for picking this film up. I’m buying stock in Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dustin Mancinelli. They’re the real deal, crafting just an absolutely brutal, visceral film rooted in honest and heavy emotion. I will not forget this film.

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