The Horror Honeys: I Spit On Your Revenge Movie

I Spit On Your Revenge Movie

The Five Mistakes (Almost) Every Revenge Movie Makes

No. Stop making that face. Everyone hates you.
Part One of a Two-Part Epic New Year Rant

When you are a Horror Honey, you watch a lot of movies. Unlike the typical critic, however, we Horror Honeys are (happily) confined to very specific genres; genres that offer films that run the spectrum from brilliant to abso-frigging-lutely awful. (As a Horror Honeys reader, you know all of this, but I am just reiterating to make my point. Stay with me.) In my role as Revenge Honey, the movies I have seen are always, obviously, about vengeance. That vengeance can be instigated by the brutal rape and murder of a loved one, or it can come about because a stranger bumped into a man on the street and didn't say, "excuse me." (Seriously. That was the plot of an actual revenge film.) But with every movie about retribution I watch, one thing has become blatantly clear...

Most of them suck straight-up donkey ass.

It's not that the creators of these movies haven't put effort into their films. The fact is that you can't get a movie out of the gate without at least a modicum of effort. The problem is that the makers of revenge films (most often the writers, as we will see) keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Some of the movies may make one or two of these dumbass mistakes, while the worst commit the cardinal sin of doing every single possible thing wrong. But the most frustrating thing of all is that every mistake is totally avoidable, if filmmakers would start thinking with their brains, and stop thinking with their wallets, juvenile senses of humor, and/or penises.

Mistake Number One: Thinking All Women Want to Get Naked and Screw Each Other

In the last year, a surprisingly common plot for the revenge film has involved two women who team up in order to seek brutal and bloody vengeance on the men who have wronged them. On the surface, this seems like a fabulous idea. Alone, women are almost always more focused, driven, and straight up methodical than your average male. But put us in pairs? Well, then we essentially become superheroes minus (usually) the mutant powers. Specifically, the two films that used this concept as their main driving point in the last 12 months were Girls Against Boys and Kill for Me. You'd think this would be something that would get the Revenge Honey excited, right? Well, you'd be wrong. Because both films fell victim to the pervasive male fantasy that secretly, all women want to get naked, have pillow fights, and fuck each other.

We do not. DEAL WITH IT.

Both Girls and Kill featured a lesbian character that was in the revenge portion of the friendship specifically with the intention to prey on the vulnerable lady, simply biding their time until, sad, broken, and presumably fed up with the male species, Lady Sad Sack realizes that she's actually been playing for the other team all along. This persistent plot twist is infuriating on every level. It assumes that first, all female friendships are based on sex, and worst, all lesbians are predators. Take it away, Liz Lemon!

This is what happens when men are writing about a topic that they are utterly incapable of understanding. One of the things that makes female friendships so remarkable is that they can be intimate, steeped in bravery, and are often at their strongest in times of crisis. When a film like Girls Against Boys devolves into the male fantasy that all female friendships are sexual in nature, it is because they are writing scripts based on their own desires, and not reality. I'm not saying that men can't write a "female buddy revenge" script. What I AM saying is that they can't write alone. If a man is going to write a movie about two women on a road trip of revenge, it might help to at least talk to a woman. Or perhaps refer to the gold standard of female buddy revenge films...
Women can be friends WITHOUT having sex? WHAT?

When I try to draw to mind a female buddy revenge film that got it right in every way possible, only one has ever done it: that movie is Thelma & Louise. And, SHOCKER, Thelma & Louise was written by Callie Khouri... a LADY! This is my point, kids: we are dealing with a totally fixable problem here. First, if a fella has an idea for an amazing script about two women who are seeking revenge for their ill treatment at that hands of masculine types, it might not hurt to talk to a few women and get their perspective on things. Just like I can never REALLY know what it's like to be a boy dealing with the fear of getting a stiffy in algebra class, most men can never know what it's like to be victimized by a man, and they definitely can't know what it's like to be part of a real female friendship. Talk. To. Women.

Second, women need to start writing revenge films! According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. That's 17.7 million women. It's time for those who have lived through the experiences to start sharing them. The only way to combat movies like Kill for Me and Girls Against Boys is to write better ones.

Revenge Honey Note: The French film Baise-moi qualifies as a "female buddy revenge" movie. It was also written by two women, Virginie Despentes and Coralie. However, due to its graphic violence and sex, and the fact that the English translation of its title is "fuck me" ( says that it is "rape me," but that's not accurate), it will probably never find a solid audience. But that doesn't mean it's a bad place to start.

Mistake Number Two: Writing Horrible & Unsympathetic Characters

Don't believe anything on the cover.
I don't even remember any knocking.

Unless this is an anal rape joke, in which case,
One of the most important elements to making a revenge movie that people care about is crafting characters that actually resonate. It's hard to care about whether or not someone achieves retribution if they're a giant asshat. This year, I live tweeted two different revenge films that were absolutely chock full of some of the most abhorrent characters I have ever seen in a film in my life; Someone's Knocking at the Door and Bad Kids Go to Hell. Even if you take out that fact that both films were incoherent messes, they committed this mistake almost immediately by featuring characters who were absolute wastes of space.

It's of course true that every film needs a villain. But when your movie is peppered with so much casual racism, sexual violence, and uselessly miserable character traits, that every actor becomes a villain, you've written a revenge movie that no one will give a shit about. I have seen multiple films like this as a Honey, but Bad Kids and Someone are just the most egregious offenders.

However, Bad Kids was especially guilty, in that each character in the script was so racist, sexist, cruel, and unpleasant, that I was rooting almost immediately for every one of them to die mere minutes into the movie. When you watch films like I Saw the Devil or Death Sentence, you're invested because the main characters are heartbreaking and sympathetic. If I am watching your movie and engaging in some Lady Mary style ambivalence about who lives and who dies, you've failed epically as a screenwriter.

Write. Better. Characters.

Mistake Number Three: Believing All Women Need a Big, Strong Man to Rescue Them

This is a mistake that both genders make, and it's not entirely our fault. Almost every kid grew up hearing fairy tales where a damsel in distress had to sit on her ass and wait for a handsome prince to rescue her from an evil witch, or a spell that finally lets her catch some shuteye, or being an amazingly beautiful mermaid who lives in a sparkling undersea city with talking pet fish. (Seriously, Ariel... what the FUCK were you thinking?) It's no wonder that we are still dealing with movies that believe every busy business woman's problems can be fixed with a penis.

Guess what! They can't.

This philosophy spills over into revenge films as well. While we do have movies like I Spit On Your Grave and Ms. 45, movies like those, where a woman becomes an asskicking vengeance machine, tend to be few and far between. (Some might argue that the Kill Bill films fall into this category, but I don't give any more credit to Quentin Tarantino than is necessary... And anyway, that credit would go to EVERYONE HE RIPS OFF! Video support for this sub-rant:

This is my article and I'll rant if I want to.
Please. Someone. Stop him.

She's grabbing her hair, so you
know she's really conflicted.
One of the greatest, most challenging, and most controversial revenge films of all times is Gaspar NoĆ©'s Irreversible. This movie, told in reverse, shows a woman's rape in brutally unpleasant, and for some, unwatchable, detail. But rather than give the pleasure of seeking revenge to the woman, the film follows her current and ex-boyfriend as they search for her attacker, while the victim spends the majority of the film in a coma. This lack of perspective doesn't make Irreversible a bad film; it simply makes it one of very narrow scope.

Another revenge film that falls victim to the "wouldn't have worked without a man" trope is The Brave One (2007), starring Jodie Foster. Granted, no one out there was singing the praises of this particular movie, because it just felt like a sigh, seen it rehash of every other revenge movie ever made. My main problem with it was that while it had potential, the implication of the film was that Foster's character was allowed to continue with her street justice because a male cop took pity on her. Terrance Howard's detective knows what Jodie is up to, but he lets her keep shooting pimps, because well... being a girl is hard.

Say what you will about Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, but that bitch knew how to get shit done! She didn't need a man to help her stalk or stab or bunny boil. And like Zoe Lund in Ms. 45 or Camille Keaton in I Spit On Your Grave, Close was organized and prepared to do whatever she had to seek revenge. Let's be real kids: the average woman can go about her entire day without asking a man for anything. I think it's about time that we start putting out some revenge films that can say the same.

That is not the face of a woman that needs anyone's help.

Tune in next week for Part Two of the Revenge Honey's New Year rant...