It’s up to the viewer to keep track of who’s violating who when two sisters and their respective partners take a tense holiday in the Canadian wilderness. Miriam, the older sister, is having relationship problems with Caleb, her British husband. Greta, the easy-going younger sibling, has married their childhood friend, Dylan, a keen hunter. After Miriam and Dylan snog during a boozy night by the campfire, Miriam goes to sleep and Dylan rapes her. The next day, he insists it was consensual. Miriam takes extreme revenge, and we watch as she swaps roles from prey to predator. If that sounds pretty standard for a rape-revenge thriller, then think again. The twist here is that Violation opts to only show the moment Dylan forces himself on Miriam long after the fact – keeping the audience guessing as to what’s actually happened.
Madeleine Sims-Fewer (Miriam) and Dusty Mancinelli co-direct, co-write and co-produce the movie – and presumably they’ll come round and co-make you some popcorn while you’re streaming it on Shudder. The pair have collaborated on short films before, and do take some liberties stretching Violation out to feature length. Shots linger, conversations ramble and visual metaphors lurk. The dialogue is so naturalistic, you sometimes feel like you’re there hiding in the bushes spying on them – a level of depth rarely found in horror.
And make no mistake, Violation is a horror. Not because it takes place at a cabin in the woods and has a soundtrack of staccato strings and heavy chorales, but because it’s absolutely unblinking in what is shown. When Miriam vomits, the heaving and sploshing goes on so long your own stomach will be churning in sympathy. When Dylan is turned on by Miriam, we see his boner, right there on screen, proud as Punch. Those long, lingering shots are echoed in footage of the local fauna going about its business: a reminder that all animals really do is fuck, fight, sleep and eat.
You could spoil the fun by questioning the behaviour of the human animals – because it’s a stretch to imagine anyone choosing the course of action that occurs here – but that would be missing the point of a film that’s bent on making you think about your own morals as you try to unpick the complicated motivations and jealousies at play. As Dylan puts it during the flirty fireside chat: “Everybody’s at least medium shitty.”
- Directors: Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli
- Starring: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe
- Release date: March 25 (Shudder)