While the brooding atmosphere of Violation, the debut feature from Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli, can be effective in telling its tale of the loneliness of female trauma, it also inspires a state of déjà vu. Every stylized frame of the film’s forest environment looks exactly like the striking imagery from Lars von Trier’s Antichrist over a decade ago. All that’s missing is the “Chaos Reigns” fox (although there’s still a nefarious slow-mo wolf in its place).
The Antichrist vibes begin immediately, an ominously twisting drone shot following a couple who clearly hate each other, Miriam (Sims-Fewer) and Caleb (Obi Abili), as they journey down an uber-foreboding forest road on their way to visit Miriam’s sister, Greta (Anna Maguire), and brother-in-law, Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). Once there, the tension increases, resulting in personal betrayals both expected and nauseating. Meanwhile the surrounding trees look on, influencing and absorbing the increasing vengeance that occurs.
Violation is at its best when showcasing the hard reality of rape culture, with all the subtle gas lighting and ugly victim-blaming to go along with it. As Miriam, Sims-Fewer gives a melting-down performance reminiscent of Elisabeth Moss in Queen of Earth (another recent film that comes to mind while viewing) except she doesn’t give herself enough to play off of, instead focusing on gimmicky temporal shifts to lend psychological weight to the story.
It’s one thing to wear your influences on your sleeve, but Violation never stands alone as the scathing indictment of misogyny that it should.