Playing like a post modern grind house film, Ravage plays with tropes and types in the survivalist horror genre. While eschewing the blood and gore that films of this ilk embrace, it delivers visceral thrills while suffering a stumble on the dismount.
Harper Sykes (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) is a nature photographer tracking an elusive red stag in Watchatoomy Valley. There, she comes across an enclave of, well, ‘Deliverance hillbillies’. I hesitate to use the phrase because these guys seem to be more a stereotype of another kind. Together they’re a very recognizable stereotype which the film deconstructs as it plays out. These men, led by Ravener (Robert Longstreet), are fighting for their land, and keeping those they don’t want there, out. Doing so by committing horrible murders. Something Sykes comes across, leading her into a prolonged encounter with Ravener and his men.
When she escapes, following intimations of rape and other violence left unseen, she wages her own personal war on them as she fights to escape. We get all of this through flashback, as she shares her story from a hospital bed, wearing bandages from head to toe. So we know, going in, that she survives, but at a cost.
The film has predictable reveals, even when Bruce Dern delivers them, that don’t do the story any service, nor add anything new to the genre. But we do see Sykes improvisational skills and survival abilities put to the test. She takes down one target after another, turning the tables on the hunters. The film thought out her escapes, shooting and delivering them believably, which leads to my big problem with the last act of the film.
Sykes tells her story, having taken her time with it through the rest of the film. But it rushes all of the events of the climax over, telling them quickly, instead of letting them play out. That deprives Ravener of a restored sense of menace and heightening Sykes sense of helplessness. Instead, it feels like a mad rush to get to the credits instead of truly playing up the horror of Ravener’s final horrible plan for Sykes. That plan is truly monstrous, and definitely needed to be explored onscreen, because it had the potential an iconic moment in horror history. One that the film misses out on.
This film that has delightfully shown how Sykes is able to get her way out of things through, again, improvising. She takes down her enemies (though with less blood than one would expect for the genre). But we are still left feeling cheated.
Ravage is a could have been, if it had embraced it’s genre, and taken its time with the last act. It could have become something truly extraordinary in the genre, instead, it settles for being average. Ravage is available on VOD.