The opening feature at Glasgow Frightfest 2014 was arguably one of the best choices in programming over the entire weekend. Savaged, written and directed by Michael S. Ojeda, is a brutal revenge slasher hovering somewhere between I Spit on Your Grave and Evil Dead.
Basically the story follows what happens to Zoe (Amanda Adrienne), a deaf mute girl on a trip to see her boyfriend in Mexico, after she attempts to save a Native American from the clutches of a brutal red-neck posse. The girl is kidnapped, brutally raped and tortured, then murdered and dumped in the desert. Troubles don’t stop there: a Native Shaman attempts to resurrect her but her soul returns fused to that of an ancient apache warrior. Playing host to the vengeful spirit, Zoe goes on a blood drenched revenge trip.
When you write it out like that, the film’s true colours appear pretty obvious. The opening half’s intense portrayal of capture and rape seems so bleak and steeped in a kind
of degradation and shame, reminiscent of Martyrs, that the film seems utterly upsetting. Queue a Raimi-esque twist that sees the fantastic Amanda Adrienne’s distraught victim go on an apache driven revenge trip. Here the film picks up with so much glee that it’s impossible not to have a good time watching. Ojeda keeps a tight hold on the tone of his feature though, making sure it never sacrifices its grim beginnings or bleak laughs. That initial path of utter degradation proves important in ensuring that – no matter how freaky things get- the audience always sides with Zoe. Even when she’s rotting away, duct-taping bits of herself back together between blood soaked fights and sadistic hunting games, somewhere under all that, Adrienne injects a crucial dose of humanity to the monstrous heroine.
Of course, there’s a strong silly element to the film, not least Zoe’s boyfriend who shows up seconds behind the action again and again, spouting laughably adolescent dialogue and painfully hilarious overacting. But his character, the only “normal” guy on screen, adds to the humour of the film as opposed to causing it any issues. Along with the over-exaggerated gore and fantastically executed action, any dodgy acting appears to fit the bill and give a far more rounded retrospective kind of black comedy.
By the finale, Savaged has become every bit as eviscerated, blood-soaked, and revenge driven as its main character. Some wasted screen time around frivolous details, such as a detailed introduction to her dad’s prized car and a grainy retro aesthetic seen in countless modern horror features, are just about the worst this film can offer, but even then that’s not enough to derail an otherwise impressive feature.
Ojeda deserves praise for great mix of funny and fierce filmmaking led by a uniquely successful blending of genre ideas. Savaged is as fun as it is depressing, as gory as it is humorous, and above all entirely watchable and rarely tiring.