Originally released under the title Savaged, Avenged is set for a theatrical/VOD release with U.S. indie distributor Uncork'd Entertainment on March 6th before its scheduled DVD release on April 21st.
Directed by first-time helmer Michael S. Ojeda, Avenged is that rare revenge horror/thriller that actually makes sense and actually works. The story, and there really is one, centers around Zoe (Amanda Adrienne), a twentysomething deaf-mute traveling across the country in her deceased father's GTO in order to move in with her fiance'. Right off the bat, Ojeda gives us a character with whom we can sympathize, partly because of her physical challenge but also because Zoe possesses an obviously kind spirit. This is evidenced when she stops in the New Mexico desert to help a man only to encounter a ruthless gang (Is there any other kind?), rednecks to be exact, who've taken up as sport the hunting and killing of Native Americans, a fact shared by the clan's leader shortly before they rape Zoe and leave her for dead. Found by a medicine man who tries to bring her back to life, Zoe's body instead becomes possessed by the Spirit of an Apache Chief, himself having been a victim of this murderous clan.
While some might consider it to be a stretch, especially for a rather graphic horror flick, Avenged essentially becomes a love story - Zoe for her fiance' and the Apache Chief for his people.
Thus, things don't look promising for the rednecks.
While you can certainly argue with the film's sense of purpose, the fact is it's rather refreshing that a horror film such as this one even has one. It also helps to have an actress the quality of Amanda Adrienne, who is for the most part believably deaf in the film and, in fact, I looked up her IMDB page to check out her background just in case. Adrienne smolders, whether she's portraying her character's kindness and innocence, her vulnerability or, especially once she heads down the vengeful path her absolutely kick-ass nature. Adrienne lights up the screen and I felt more than a little guilty to be crushing on an actress whose character had just been brutalized.
Ojeda does the lensing himself in the film and he gets maximum results with camera work that is inventive, fun, occasionally difficult to watch, and just about as inspired as it gets in indie horror. Cesar Benito's original music works with the film quite nicely, while Eli Hyder's production design weaves together the film's different layers incredibly well.
Let's face it. There's some folks who are never going to buy into the legitimacy of this type of film - I get it. It's difficult to get the meaning behind revenge films, whether we're talking about I Spit On Your Grave or Death Wish or any of the others. I get it and I can appreciate it. While I don't necessarily advocate for the film's whupass revenge, the simple truth is that Ojeda constructs it all around a meaningful story and characters that will make you love 'em or hate 'em.
Avenged had quite a bit of success on the indie horror fest circuit, playing in festivals around the world and experiencing quite a bit of acclaim along the way. It's easy to understand why. With enough gore to please gorehounds and a story that will leave you thinking even while you're flinching, Avenged is a horror film you simply won't forget.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic