The Horror Honeys: The Overlook Film Festival - 'M.F.A.'

The Overlook Film Festival - 'M.F.A.'

An Overlook Film Festival Review with Linnie

M.F.A. (2017)

The ongoing issue, and extreme under-prosecution of, campus sexual assault, is one of the major problems plaguing young women in America right now. A revenge horror film that deals with this issue with a subtle, even hand is long overdue.

Natalia Leite's M.F.A. is not the movie to do that.

Every vigilante needs a good costume, right?
The Story: After art student Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is brutally raped at a party, she accidentally kills her rapist when she confronts him. Following this burst of inadvertent empowerment, she uses his death as inspiration, both for her art, and to become a campus vigilante, taking on other rapists who got away with their crimes.

M.F.A. is not a bad movie, but it isn't a nuanced one either. The script, written by the film's co-star Leah McKendrick, attempts to take on far too many issues for its hour-and-a-half runtime, and it doesn't take long for the drama to begin to feel overwrought, like an After-School Special. Episodes of SVU are conducted with more subtlety, and any compelling points that the film had to make were lost in a flurry of suicides, unnecessary #NotAllMen subplots, and weak supporting characters.

Nothing like painting some goth girl art after a day of murdering scumbags.
The one element that anchors M.F.A. and prevents it from settling into total mediocrity is Francesca Eastwood's performance. When the rest of the movie begins to feel preachy, or exhausting, she almost seems to echo the frustration felt by the viewer, offering a strange, almost disorienting, sense of self-awareness. She may not be believable as a "wallflower" art student, but she is believable as a hammer-wielding vigilante, and since that is what is required of her for the majority of the film, she does an admirable job.

Personal Gripe: It would be nice if, at some point, rape/revenge films found a way to propel the narrative forward without resorting to scenes of explicit sexual assault. I had hoped that because M.F.A. was made by women, it would avoid this trope. Instead, it featured not one, but two scenes of violent rape, one of which was a gang rape where almost every shot involved the breasts of the victim. This is a problem. It needs to stop.

But I'm a nice guy now!
M.F.A. is a movie that shows a lot of promise for everyone involved, especially Eastwood. But it's not a rape/revenge film for the ages, and it won't suddenly convince frat guys to change their date-raping ways. When the credits roll, it's just another entry in a well-trodden canon, which given what it could have been, is all the more disappointing.

Head Honey Rating: 2 Halloween store pink wigs out of 5

Viewer Warning: M.F.A. features two scenes of graphic, violent sexual assault. Watch at your own risk.