Written and Directed by Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer
A Shudder Exclusive
Despite their marriage being on the brink of collapse, Miriam and her husband Caleb visit Miriam’s sister Greta and husband Dylan at a cabin in the woods as they prepare to invite family down for a get together. When the relationship between the siblings deteriorates and Dylan takes advantage of her in the worst possible way, Miriam breaks down and seeks revenge in the only way she sees fit.
A journey of family drama, betrayal, violation and revenge awaits in award-winning psychological thriller VIOLATION from debut feature film directors Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli.
Focusing on two sisters and their spouses, the film opens up by introducing the viewer to these characters and establishing their present relationships as well as giving some background into their own personalities and their familiarity with one another. Sisters Miriam and Greta appear to have known Greta’s husband Dylan since childhood whilst Miriam’s husband Caleb seems to be an acquaintance later in life at university. The group seem relaxed in each other’s company but there’s also frustrations and arguments happening between them so it’s safe to say that there’s fractures within their relationships but none so big as the one yet to occur…
VIOLATION is quite a mesmerising movie to watch in the way it’s shot with some interesting and almost nightmarish visuals of the woodland that surrounds the film’s characters. However, when it gets down to the core of the storyline things begin to blur. I’m not afraid to admit that this movie confused me a little and part of that is due to the way in which the film was shot, with its surreal visuals, as well as the timeline’s tendency to jump backwards and forwards to different time-frames during the weekend break the characters embark on. Miriam has issues in her life that has caused her own sister to dislike her with a passion as well as cause friction with her own husband Caleb. This is quickly introduced to the movie with the warring couple driving to their weekend retreat and get together. As characters come, Miriam is an enigma. We don’t know what she’s done or what type of person she is, but purely from the movie she seems quite erratic and her sister Greta cites their troublesome sisterly relationship as breaking down during childhood, suggesting that Miriam has always been a bit eager to react to things without engaging her brain thus causing upset of those around her.
With the timeline jumping around and all the scenes showing Miriam as someone who likes to stir the pot, I got the impression that maybe she perceived events going down differently to how they do, be it through jealousy of her sister’s marriage to Dylan or the fact that Greta’s living the wonderful life that she isn’t. However, the scenes in which she reveals to Greta what has transpired, her words which should have been taken at face-value are deflected. In this moment, any sort of sympathy from Greta is diminished, as is their sibling bond, and it’s this which is what likely sets Miriam on her lonely path of revenge and destruction. This ambiguity about her mental state and the way in which the film’s been shot lacks clarity in what actually happens to Miriam, enough for me to question what is actually going on. Her actions the following morning also seem very out of character in how one might react, so all this combined threw me off as to what actually transpires in the film. Her past actions and abrasive personality seem to put her in the bad books of everyone she’s involved with so when traumatic events do transpire, she’s finding that those she cares about most aren’t willing to give her the time nor day. In a film that wishes to take assaults like this seriously, it seems to mess around with the storytelling too much with its odd angles, editing and dreamlike sequences that it lessens the impact and just left me confused as to who was telling the truth and who wasn’t – was it consensual or not? It’s possible I’m the only one who feels there was ambiguity here but I’d rather it was more clear cut.
In what is perhaps a rarity in modern cinema, VIOLATION features full frontal male nudity for an extended period of time, even to the point of the male character in question developing an erection. It’s quite refreshing to see male nudity instead of the usual female nudity on screen although I didn’t bank on having to watch some guy stroke his erection when I sat down to watch this movie so if genitalia or sexual scenes are too explicit for your tastes, you might want to avoid this film. However, these scenes are rather a tame output compared to the homicidal scenes we’re subjected to afterwards.
When the titular act of the film plays out, revenge is the one thing on Miriam’s mind but the payback scenes take things too far. Miriam seems to have concocted the perfect plan in doing away with the man who violated her and everything she has planned seems to go like clockwork, with only a minor hiccup along the way slowing her plans down. Her crusade for revenge sees her getting away with far too much to be believable, being able to remove every single trace of a body without suspicion. It just feels like plausibility has been stretched too much to take the film as seriously as we might have done initially as the scenes leading up to the death are intense to watch. The attempted killing, the struggle between them and then eventually the snuffing out of life feels so real – hats truly off to Jesse LaVercombe and Madeleine Sims-Fewer for performing these scenes as they make for one of the most uncomfortable viewing sessions I’ve had in a while, alongside another Shudder exclusive, The Dark and The Wicked, albeit in different ways. The film’s focus at this point in the film switches from the drama between the characters into what feels like a walkthrough guide on how to commit murder and get away with it as we see Miriam drain blood into a cool box, chop up body parts, burn them, grind down bone, flush parts down a toilet in a motel and more. How she doesn’t get caught and manages to decisively get away with her actions is puzzling. What is equally as astonishing is that at this point, though a little mentally unstable, Miriam is in a position of utmost clarity, such is her drive and precision in the way she handles it all. Now that’s scary!
VIOLATION is a conflicting film in many ways as it has such a thoughtful outlook in the way it’s shot and presented but when it comes down to the nitty gritty it’s not much different from a gratuitous revenge horror.