In the past, for some strange reason, I've had the random occurrence of stumbling across some truly offensive Native American horror films (Rites of Passage, Bad Kids Go to Hell). I had begun to assume that it was impossible for any horror film to remotely approach the Native American culture with the respect it deserved. And then one recent evening, by total happenstance, I found Michael S. Ojeda's movie, Savaged (2013). Not only is my faith in the rape revenge horror completely renewed, but I now believe it is possible to base a scary film in the tenants of the Native American way of life without being entirely disrespectful.
Allow me to take you through the emotional gut-punch that is Savaged...
The Plot: A young deaf woman named Zoe decides to make the trip cross-country to move in with her beloved long-distance boyfriend, who intends to propose to her once she arrives. But, while en route, a group of miserable, racist rednecks abduct, rape, and brutalize Zoe, and then bury her alive (though near death) in the desert when they are finished with her. However, Zoe's journey isn't complete, as an elderly Native American man finds Zoe and attempts to bring her back to life through a ritual that also happens to bring back with Zoe a spiritual hitchhiker: an Apache warrior who was murdered by an ancestor of one of the jackholes who attacked Zoe. Using Zoe as a conduit for his revenge and hers, a path of destruction is torn across the desert while Zoe's fiancé desperately tries to locate her.
Perhaps it's the fact that I speak some sign language, or perhaps it's the fact that a deaf heroine is just a touch more vulnerable when it comes to a situation like the one in the film, but I immediately found myself attached to Zoe (Amanda Adrienne). If you've read the description of the film, you know what it is coming, but it comes so quickly and with such cruelty that you can barely catch your breath. The gang of rednecks that attack Zoe are immediately established as racists and murderers and bastards. Even as you know the revenge portion of the film is coming, it can not come soon enough. You will crave it, be desperate for it, and if you are anything like me, maybe even shed a tear as you wait for it.
Savaged has been compared to The Crow, and rightfully so. It's a beautiful supernatural revenge film with simple but gorgeous digital and practical effects and a truly sympathetic lead. Everything about it is deeply disturbing but also, deeply satisfying. Prior to directing Savaged, Michael S. Ojeda was the director behind documentaries The Battle of Gettysburg and The Dillinger Conspiracy, as well as the reenactment scenes on Deadliest Warrior, and it shows. Ojeda's attention to detail just ups the impact of every devastating and brutal moment in Savaged, proving that he has a real future as an indie horror director.
Savaged is unequivocally one of the best rape revenge films I have ever seen, disturbing and moving, with hints of different horror genres scattered throughout. This is one indie horror film that deserves to be viewed, discussed, and then viewed again, by every genre fan.
Rating: 5 Pissed Off Apache Warriors out of 5