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“Ravage” Is An Unwaveringly Brutal Tale Of Survival (With A Bruce Dern Bonus)

Grindhouse type fare is a lost art. Whether it’s a horror effort or a thriller, being grim, gritty, and even gross is something that small scale filmmakers used to pursue to a far greater extent. Obviously, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino tried to recapture the glory with the literal titled Grindhouse, but there hasn’t been a real resurgence. To be sure, it’s hard to do this well, as multiple attempts to remake something like I Spit On Your Grave has proven. Ravage, however, manages to do more right than it does wrong. Unyieldingly intense, it somehow also reminds one of something like Kevin Smith’s Tusk (you’ll understand if/when you see it), which is a rare achievement. This won’t be for most, but if you go in for this kind of genre fare, it’s an interesting new offering.

The film is a thriller, following a nature photographer named Harper Sykes (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) as she fights for survival in the Watchatoomy Valley. Out hoping to capture images of an elusive animal, she stumbles upon an act of violence that shocks her, but also puts her life in danger. No sooner does she attempt to report what she’s seen to the local police does she get picked up by a group led by Ravener (Robert Longstreet). Escaping their clutches, she evades their clutches, turning the tables on them whenever possible, often in the most violent of ways. As she attempts to get out of the Valley with her life, she comes across a mysterious old man (Bruce Dern), as well as a realization that almost everyone out there is against her. Teddy Grennan writes and directs, with music from Jacques Brautbar, along with cinematography by Christopher Walters. Supporting players include Joshua Brady, Eric Nelsen, Ross Partridge, and more.

Despite a number of flaws, including slacker pacing than you’d expect, the tone established here is admirable intense. The acting on display is hit or miss, aside from the legend that is Bruce Dern, showing up for essentially a cameo that reminds you how captivating he always is. Protagonist Annabelle Dexter-Jones does her job well enough, but she’s more engaging on a physical level when she’s fighting than at other times. Her scene with Dern is a mismatch, though he elevates her game as well. More with the two of them (and more with Dern in general) would have given the flick some deeper levels, as opposed to the surface level appeal presented here. It still works, but it’s a hint of what could have been.

Ravage goes there, that much is clear. It all builds to an ending that you’ll never forget, for better or worse. More Bruce Dern would have been better, too, but it’s a treat whenever he shows up. Filmmaker Teddy Grennan commits to his premise. He’s all-in on a violent and brutal thriller, culminating in an horrific display that will either win him a following or turn him off to many. Frankly, both may happen, and Grennan would likely have it no other way. As it stands, whatever he decides to tackle next, especially if he can tighten his pacing, will be well worth looking out for.

Now playing, Ravage is a memorably intense exercise. If Grindhouse style films are your thing, you’ll appreciate they’re going for here. If you don’t, you’ll likely hate it. That being said, the end is so weird and so out there, it has to be seen to be believed. Plus, anything with Bruce Dern in it is something to seek out. Give this movie a look if you have the stomach for it and you’ll have a hard time shaking the final moments.

Be sure to check out Ravage, available now!

(Photos courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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