Violation, a rape revenge thriller from Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli, casts a decisively female gaze on the oft-maligned genre. This debut feature from the directing duo centres on Miriam (played by Sims-Fewer), a woman whose marriage is on the brink and whose relationship with her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) is fraught with jealousy and contempt. The only person with whom she finds a natural ease and levity is her childhood friend and brother-in-law, Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe).
To reveal much more of the plot’s details would ruin the careful construction of the story, which unfurls in non-chronological order. The result is often disorienting, but highly reflective of Miriam’s anxiety-filled and trauma-soaked memories. Despite the dreamily structured narrative, Violation also has a disturbingly naturalistic, grounded quality. The revenge sequence in particular slows to an almost real-time pace, every agonising detail and sound unflinchingly committed to the screen.
There’s nothing gratuitous or even triumphant about Violation; it’s about one woman’s methodical, desperate attempt to destroy what devastated her. Even she knows her actions won’t soothe the hurt she feels, yet she does it anyway. Through a performance of extraordinary physical and emotional endurance, Sims-Fewer embodies the tension between Violation’s hazy narrative framing and the events’ stone-cold realism: Miriam’s wild eyes appear elsewhere, haunted, while her body cannot escape her surroundings. The outcome is a performance that is distressingly credible.
If Violation has one flaw however, it is its use of visual motifs. Taking place almost exclusively in the wilderness of Quebec, the creators make heavy-handed use of animal imagery. A dark wolf feasting on a carcass, trapped spiders flailing beneath glass, rabbits being caught and skinned, landscapes tilting and keeping the viewer off-balance. It proves too on-the-nose to function as it’s intended, but the wild landscapes and eerie music do afford Violation a further sense of otherworldliness, counterbalancing the unwavering commitment to realism. The result is a trope-defying, claustrophobic, and disturbing genre thriller bolstered by phenomenal performances. Miriam’s story is a hard one to shake.
Violation is released March 25th on Shudder.