Eve (Tina Ivlev) has been chained in a dismal basement for some time, the victim of an obsessive sexual predator, Phil (Richard Tyson), who treats her like his pet. Against the grain of the average horror feature, Jose Manuel Cravioto’s Reversal (now titled Bound to Vengeance) sees its punchy heroine brutally escape in the opening minutes and -you guessed it-reverse the situation. Breaking a deal with her abusive captor, Eve sets out on a night of horror to save her fellow victims from dens across town.
Say what you like about the film’s execution and dodgy subject matter, but the opening is a joyous feat, the kind of cathartic event that you rarely get in a film this heavy. Ivlev shines as cunning horror heroine Eve. Usually you break your voice screaming at the screen, but Eve is made of tougher stuff, never turning her back on her piggish captor, keeping a gun aimed at open doorways whilst she’s in the shower, rigging a leash for Phil, going to great lengths to ensure her safety. Its sharp and it’s a pleasure to watch.
But where the hell did she learn all this survival knowledge? Why is she so driven? We don’t get an answer to the first, and the reply to the second is a lacklustre attempt at deeper engagement. There were better ways to round off the story and cement Eve as a complex but entertaining horror figure.
Cravioto keeps the energy high and the camera moving, but not so quick we don’t get to take in all the awful details. Cinematographer Byron Werner maintains a perfectly grimy aesthetic that puts the Saw films to shame, whilst Simon Boswell’s industrial/classic horror film scoring proves vastly uncomfortable on the way down the rabbit hole. There’s some interesting visual flare, least in the erratic editing and searing flashbacks, more so in Adriana Serano’s production design. Eve moves through sickly decrepit urban environments, houses like prisons lit in hues of green and burnt orange, but after a stint in a neon sex dungeon the film seems to stop worrying about how its locales look.
An odd appearance at Sundance 2015, Reversal is a cathartic, transfixing, and gruelling horror venture, with a terrific turn from lead Tina Ivlev and a despicable one from Richard Tyson. Cravioto’s debut English feature shows great visual/narrative potential and for the most part delivers, but some people will be dismayed by the film’s bold yet slightly dumb final scenes and its basic repetitive structure.