★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed By Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli
Miriam (Sims-Fewer) and her husband Caleb’s marriage is on the rocks. They have not been intimate for a year and everything the other does sets them on edge. Greta, Miriam’s younger sister and her husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) seem to have it all figured out and the glow of newlyweds surrounds them. When Miriam and Caleb travel to Greta and Dylan’s lake house for a visit, the idyllic surroundings and warm conversation can’t mask the sense of foreboding and as layers of relationships are peeled back what is unearthed is an intense and starkly brutal horror movie. That’s all of the plot summary you’re going to get from me as I feel this film is best viewed knowing as little as possible.
Violation opens with a warning that it contains “sexual violence, graphic sexual content and extreme violence/gore,” and this may turn off some viewers. I myself had second thoughts because I usually avoid “rape/revenge” horror (that’s not a spoiler if you’ve kept your eye on this film’s festival rounds) but don’t let it stop you from experiencing this film. Many of our favorite horror films are much more vicious and gory and the sexual violence is shown in the least gratuitous, but no less impactful, way possible. Graphic sexual content is present but I wonder if it is only notable because it’s graphic male nudity? That’s a bigger question for a far better critic than I…
Violation is a beautiful and moving film. The filmmakers toy with shifts in time and temperament throughout that work to bolster the narrative. Watching the film I fluctuated between feeling that I was being gaslighted to being sure it was the narrator who was unreliable- I think my reactions mirrored the character Miriam’s own. The performances by Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Jesse LaVercombe are award-worthy and the chemistry between them undeniable. Slow, steady and brutal, the last film that gave me this kind of vibe was Antichrist.