In Violation’s closing stretch, Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) sits numbly in a rain-lashed car and watches a man harangue his wife in an eastern European language. Miriam has just done something unspeakable, in reaction to something unforgivable; preparing to finish the job at an anonymous motel, it is as if she has crossed a border into a foreign country. But the couple in front of her show the inescapable constant: male violence. Building to a remorseless climax, Sims-Fewer and co-writer/director Dusty Mancinelli brilliantly, and times almost unwatchably, overhaul the rape-revenge movie as something far more realistic, traumatised and noxious.
Miriam has come from London to visit her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) in the Canadian forest idyll she shares with husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). But tension is in the air: in Miriam’s faltering marriage with Caleb (Obi Abili), in her jealousy of her sister, even in the disturbing flashes of nature – pond lice seething on the lake – that open the film. Able only to unburden herself to the seemingly matey Dylan, Miriam stupidly kisses him by the campfire; then when she is sleeping, he rapes her. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli don’t show this event immediately, opting for non-linear disorientation that cuts between that night and a later hook-up in a log cabin in which Miriam ties Dylan naked to a chair, and asks for his side of the story.
What follows is possibly the most brutal woman-on-man ordeal since Audition. But there is nothing triumphal about it; this isn’t some fantasy spree, just a single abject act of reprisal. La violencia, and the torrent of suppressed rage and disgust it unleashes, are appalling. When the rape is finally shown, it is in tiny glimpses of chilled napes and heaving eyelids. Trying to utterly destroy Dylan’s body is Miriam’s response to the invasion of her own, and this corporeal tragedy plays out in Sims-Fewer’s staggering physical commitment to the role. Outside the motel, her face becomes a glistening mask; a fury in the classical Greek sense. Misogyny remains current, but this stony rejoinder – with nature shot as if out of kilter, or possibly amplified – feels like something from the ancient world.
Violation is released on 25 March on Shudder.