Bound to Vengeance. 2015. Directed by Jose Manuel Cravioto. Written by Keith Kjornes and Rock Shaink Jr.
Starring Tina Ivlev and Richard Tyson. Dark Factory Entertainment. Unrated. 80 minutes.
For the so-called “meninists” out there (which is a stupid term to begin with because feminist is derived from feminine, the male term being masculine, so wouldn’t it be masculinist if we’re being correct?), you’re in for a real rough go of it with Bound to Vengeance. I love it, so much. Like a dose of cinematic vengeance, poetic justice.
The trick to director Jose Manuel Cravioto’s film being a great, entertaining, and horrific feminist film, in my opinion, is the lens through which he captures all the action.
Bound to Vengeance starts very typically with a man holding a young woman in a dark, dank looking basement. The man is Phil (Richardy Tyson). The woman is Eve (Tina Ivlev). But where most films might show us all the torturous events which lead to there, or maybe even more to follow, where Eve is treated like a wild animal – beaten, starved, hurt – and even worse than that, raped, sexually abused, and so on. Not so for Bound to Vengeance – the opening reel begins as Eve smashes a brick across Phil’s face. She runs and heads to get away. Only she stops. Eve finds evidence that there are other girls – many more – than her, stuck in places like this, kept hidden away to be used for the pleasure of others. This prompts Eve to threaten Phil: either show her where the other girls are, or die a brutal death. Phil complies. Yet things get tricky.
I think the atypical beginning, the whole opening segment (the titlecard BOUND TO VENGEANCE doesn’t appear until about the 20-minute mark, I believe) is really awesome. It subverts the expectations. You almost want to sigh as the whole thing begins – Phil walks down to a room where Eve is laying on a dirty mattress, chained up – but then suddenly the brick, and WHAM – things are on another course.
Tina Ivlev does a fantastic job at selling this film. Richard Tyson works well, too, but it’s Tina who is the star. She is strong and at the same time vulnerable at the right points. She is not perfect, nor should she be. For a small horror-thriller film, good acting is always the key. No matter what. Here, Ivlev does great. I think had the female lead here been weak, things could’ve easily fallen apart. Regardless of how well Tyson or anyone else played the character of Phil, having a weak Eve wouldn’t have been any good. Ivlev makes this a strong female driven film.
The aspect I love most about this film is how it’s a story of sexual abuse and victimization of women without having to resort to showing graphic representations of the violence itself – unlike such modern films like the remake of Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, among others. This way, it really becomes a great revenge horror-thriller, and also one that I find specifically geared towards women. I don’t mean that it should be marketed solely to women; not one bit. This is a great movie. What I mean is that it works great in an equal sense. As men, we get tons and tons of these rape-revenge fantasies, which in a way are unhealthy because it promotes this maidenic ideal of women that we as men have to be the shining white knights and charge in to save the girls from their attackers. Bound to Vengeance doesn’t sacrifice a woman’s power or sexualize women to do anything.
I consider this a feminist film, in the best sense of the word, and I don’t think it’s so because men are being killed. That’s a lame, and dangerous, assumption to make about what anything means to be feminist. I believe it’s feminist, first and foremost, because the women in the film don’t require being shamed graphically in front of our eyes the way it is in most films especially nowadays (think of the remake and following sequels for I Spit on Your Grave) to also receive retribution. Of course it’s implied, we know what’s happened, but it doesn’t have to be shown, we don’t have to see it sexualized and have women paraded naked and raped on camera. Furthermore, the fact it is a woman getting revenge does not fetter her to needing a man for protection, or to protect any of the other women – Eve does it all on her own. I think this is one of the best revenge films of the last decade for sure. Not perfect, but excellently done in the sense of how it treats violence against women.
I especially enjoyed the editing. As time goes on, the videos of happier times being weaved throughout and edited into the present tense become more chilling. At first it’s very reminiscent of something sweeter, a better day than what Eve was experience there and then with Phil, everything after him. But then things get worse and worse. I thought that part of the film worked really well, and it’s something that can go unnoticed. Not saying it’s the most genius thing ever conceived, I just believe it worked effectively for this film. The ending has a good impact with the way things are edited in this sense.
The whole movie had an interesting tone. There was a gritty feel and an almost retro look yet not quite; grainy, at times bright and glaring. I enjoyed how everything, from scene to scene, had a raw and realistic feel, which is always something that helps towards setting the mood. Also, the score was some good stuff and I like the way it worked with the overall atmosphere of the film.
This is definitely a 4 out of 5 star film for me. Bound to Vengeance treats really horrifying subject matter in a way not too often done. As of late I’ve been much more interested in gender issues, and regardless of how others feel I’ve always approached fiction in a way that helps me also confront real life – you don’t always have to consciously think of it, but it’s always there working that way. We incorporate everything we take in – no matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction, weather, social structures, et cetera – and it becomes a part of our daily lives. So, I really found that this movie works in a feminist perspective. Very well, in fact. The image above is the most graphic thing in regards to sexual violence shown throughout the entire film – it’s disturbing without being full-on graphic. That’s a part of what I liked about Bound to Vengeance, is that we don’t need to see all the dirty, disgusting, terrible details to enjoy what happens afterwards. We can see the consequences without requiring to have seen the acts perpetrated. Death Wish and other much more brutal, graphic movies about rape-revenge fantasies need to go for that shock, the awe of rape or sexual torture whether it’s completely physical or possibly just psychological. This movie does not have to go that way, and I think it really work great, even better than if it had opted to show any of that sort of thing. For that, I applaud Cravioto, and I think this is hands down one of the best revenge horror/thriller I’ve seen since the beginning of the 2000s.