Ravage (2019) | Directed by Teddy Grennan
aka Swing Low
Written by Teddy Grennan | Starring Bruce Dern, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Eric Nelsen
A welcome throwback to classic hixploitation. If you were a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Mother’s Day and the golden days of R&R movies, Ravage will bring you a ton of warm and fuzzy memories. From the effective score to the absolutely beautiful photography, director Teddy Grennan elevates a rather familiar narrative far above its starkly crude subject matter.
Despite a few gaps in logic and plot (but hey, who isn’t willing to suspend one’s disbelief for an entertaining film) this is one of the few modern horror films that treats its Grand Guignol aspects with subtlety and shows respect for the actors. Although the female protagonist suffers sexual assault, it is not shown on-screen and the gore is restrained for a picture of this nature.
The film starts with babe photographer Harper (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) shooting wildlife in a picturesque Virginia valley surrounded by lush foliage, blazing sunsets and golden fields. The visuals are truly superior to most films, genre or not. Unfortunately, she stumbles across a group of men systematically torturing some poor schnook and feeding his body parts to a pair of appreciative hounds. Our girl makes a fatal error by hanging around in order to get a shot of the nefarious goings-on, when one of the pooches alerts the psychos that the game’s afoot.
Ms. Jones proves herself to be a fine actress and a resourceful hero as she evades capture, again and again. If this were an episode of Naked and Afraid her survival skills would be off the charts as she improvises traps for the bad guys, and a pontoon raft for herself.
The movie speeds from one set-piece to another, heightening suspense and tension. The most telling scene, although how important is not revealed until much later in the film, is when Harper makes her way to the lone, local law enforcement official who isn’t that helpful. While waiting for him to join her in a search for the bad guys, Harper’s truck is hitched to another one and hauled out of town, pronto. An exciting, well-edited and photographed scene, but you think the sight of a screaming woman inside her truck, being towed away from in front of the police station might raise a few eyebrows.
Once back at the bad guy’s barn, the head psycho Ravener (veteran creep Robert Longstreet) terrorizes her while she cowers in her vehicle. When he convinces her to come out, Harper’s sporting a big ass gun and uses it to permanently detoxify one of the sickos. Ravener uses his trusty bullwhip to slap the piece out of her hand and she is beaten then tied to a table to be assaulted by three of Longstreet’s henchman.
When Harper wakes, she is tied upside down, hanging from the rafters of the barn. Using moves that would make veteran circus performer’s jaws drop, she manages to free her self by grabbing a glass lightbulb cover, smashing it and cutting her bindings. Then using what must be some bitchin’ abs, she does the same for her tied up ankles.
Once she escapes, barefoot, no less, Harper begins to think seriously about some revenge. That evening she comes across the sickest of the henchman having a little campfire and meth party. She slips in unawares and runs off with a box full of cartridges and a few other goodies. Carefully lowering the box o’bullets into Crazy Joe’s campfire, it doesn’t take long before it’s an unhappy fourth of July for our poor miscreant, the victim of Harper’s improvised claymore mine.
After dispatching two more of the slobbering rednecks, Harper sails downstream and comes across a creepy old house. Instead of animal skulls, bird feathers and skeletons, the home is well maintained, clean, and actually, pretty darn charming. She finds the resident, Mallincrkrodt (played to perfection by Bruce Dern) very sweet and accommodating. Then he goes on a rant about torture and murder through the ages and he becomes as welcoming as the alarmingly long nose hairs he’s sporting. In short time, Harper discovers Dern is the patriarch of the maniacs and after filling his medicinal hypodermic with meth (talk about a hot dose) watches as Bruce gives himself an injection to hell.
Our girl makes her way back to town using a purloined vehicle and walks into an ominously empty and quiet convenience store. She’s carrying grand pappy’s shotgun, which also borrowed, and is shocked when the sheriff walks in. He tells Harper her boyfriend Billy is here and they’ve been searching all over for her. I guess our girl doesn’t watch a lot of horror films because most people’s ears would be deaf from all the fire alarms ringing.
The denouement is quite shocking and original with a downbeat ending that’s perfect for this genre. Yes, Harper is a “final girl” but she has to pay a terrible price to get there.
For a gorgeous film that will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling for all those R&R Drive-In classics from the 70s I highly recommend Ravage; available 5th October on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment.