Avenged [aka Savaged] (2013), written and directed by Michael S. Ojeda, is a dark, ultra-violent rape/revenge thriller with a supernatural twist that is (blood-)soaked in Native American folklore. It’s like Steven R. Monroe‘s remake of I Spit on Your Grave (2010) mixed with Bruno Mattei‘s Scalps (1987) meets Alex Proyas‘ The Crow (1994). Ojeda isn’t breaking new ground with his film’s familiar rape/revenge tropes [i.e., female is raped, tortured and left for dead; female survives and recuperates; female returns and takes revenge on the rapist(s)], but with good performances, gritty cinematography and brutal unrelenting violence, he delivers an insanely entertaining thrill ride that would make a perfect double feature with Marc Fratto‘s Hell Fire (2013)! They’re two very different films, for sure, but both have that same modern grindhouse look and feel, and both are worth watching more than just once!
Read on if you don’t mind a way-too-lengthy synopsis (with spoilers) …
Deaf and mute Zoe (Amanda Adrienne) hops into her father’s 1968 GTO and heads out on a road trip through the American Southwest to move in and get married to her boyfriend Dane (Marc Anthony Samuel). However, after stopping on the side of the road in New Mexico, she encounters a gang of rednecks in a pickup truck and watches as they murder two Native American men in cold blood. The rednecks are brothers Trey (Rodney Rowland), West (Tom Ardavany), Jed (Ronnie Gene Blevins), and Cody (Brionne Davis); and, their friend Creed (John Charles Meyer). The brothers are the descendants of Brigadier General Joseph West who, one hundred years ago, “kicked some major Apache ass.” He saved the skulls of the Apache chieftains he killed as trophies, including the legendary Mangas Coloradas (aka Red Sleeve). Now, the brothers proudly keep up their family tradition of slaughtering Apaches. They take Zoe, who witnessed their crimes, back to their home where they rape and torture her. Zoe escapes, while Trey and West argue about killing her, but West finds her and brutally stabs her, repeatedly.
The next morning, Grey Wolf (Joseph Runningfox) finds Zoe’s body in a shallow grave. She is alive, but barely. He takes her to his trailer on an ancient Apache burial site and performs a ritual by moonlight to revive her. However, she suddenly becomes possessed by the vengeful spirit of Mangas Coloradas, and levitates off the ground. “Now they will walk… in Hell!” the Apache chieftain snarls, to Grey Wolf’s surprise. “Not on my watch!” he retorts, and knocks Zoe’s body back down. Later that night, Zoe wakes and stumbles into town where she attempts to contact Dane on a payphone. Soon, a deputy’s vehicle stops at a bar across the street. However, when he steps out, Zoe realizes that the deputy is actually Jed.
Zoe follows Jed into the bar and, possessed by Mangas Coloradas, she cuts open his gut with a broken beer bottle, yanks out his intestines, then makes him beg for his life before she scalps and kills him! The next day, after shooting Creed full of arrows and getting herself shot by him, she confronts Grey Wolf. He tells Zoe that she actually died before he could revive her, but that the spirit of Mangas Coloradas had become one with her body in order to exact his revenge on the descendants of the white men responsible for his betrayal and murder over a hundred years ago, as well as the murders of countless Apaches since. He warns: “The flesh will not sustain for long, so whatever you must do, do it before it’s too late.”
Meanwhile, Dane has followed Zoe’s trail to New Mexico, while Trey and West soon realize that she killed both Jed and Creed. So, Trey, West and Cody kidnap Dane in order to lure Zoe to them. She appears, pierces Cody’s neck with an arrow as they leave Dane’s motel, then jumps onto the bed of Trey’s pick-up truck, fighting with West as the vehicle speeds down the highway. Eventually, West throws her off and Trey runs her over. However, when she gets right back up, Trey and West realize that Zoe is more than what she appears to be and that Grey Wolf is most likely responsible for her supernatural abilities.
Trey, West and Cody retreat to an abandoned mill with three ex-Marines, including the father of a bartender killed by Zoe, and ready themselves for a showdown. Zoe appear, kills Cody as he races toward her in a car, then hunts down and kills, one by one, the ex-marines and West. However, Trey escapes and demands that Grey Wolf tell him how to stop Zoe. “There is only one way,” Grey Wolf says. “Lay the great chief to rest on sacred ground,” he adds. Trey returns with all his family’s trophies but finds that Zoe has already taken the skull of Mangas Coloradas when she went to his house to kill his mother. Then, Trey brandishes a chainsaw against Zoe, armed with a tomahawk! The final bloody battle culminates with Trey, on his knees, thrusting the chainsaw’s blade into Zoe’s gut as she beheads him with the tomahawk! Later, Dane finds Zoe’s torso trying to bury itself. He pours gasoline on her. “I love you,” she signs. “I love you, too,” he says, then sets her ablaze, releasing the spirits of both Zoe and Mangas Coloradas. “Now, she’s gone from this cruel world, but exists in a better place,” Grey Wolf tells Dane. “A beautiful world that awaits us all.” Dark, bloody and beautiful! Watch the trailer for Avenged here …
Avenged‘s outrageous kill scenes and over-the-top action sequences set this film apart from other rape/revenge thrillers. Most of them, like Avenged‘s biggest inspiration I Spit On Your Grave, are more exploitative than they are entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Steven R. Monroe‘s 2010 re-make of the 1978 cult classic, but that film is difficult to watch. The extended rape scene is brutal and graphic, and the nudity is excessive and gratuitous. I feel dirty and perverted after watching it. On the other hand, the rape in Avenged is never even shown, and Zoe is never naked. The sadistic brutality that Jennifer (Sarah Butler) suffers in I Spit On Your Grave is what fuels the merciless retribution that she delivers to her rapists. Jennifer becomes cold and soulless, and that is reflected in the film’s somber tone. However, in Avenged, Zoe allows Mangas Coloradas to use her for his vengeance not just because she was raped and left to die but because she can no longer be with Dane. Her body is dead (and rotting) but her heart isn’t. Avenged, at its core, is a tragic love story wrapped up in an action-packed horror/thriller!
Here’s a quick list of some of my favorite things about Avenged (in chronological order) …
- Amanda Adrienne as Zoe. The very lovely Adrienne, who resembles Emma Roberts (Eric‘s daughter), injects just the right amount of pathos into Zoe with very few words. She’s as good as Kimberly Lynn Layfield in Hot Rod Girls Save the World (2008). Oh, and Adrienne looks awesome kicking ass in a mini-dress!
- Zoe’s 1968 blue GTO. It’s “68 GRRR8”!
- Marc Anthony Samuel as Dane. He gives this dark film a moral center.
- Rodney Rowland as Trey. Rowland, who resembles Norman Reedus (from AMC’s The Walking Dead), oozes racist repugnance, as hotheaded Trey, with a sickening charm!
- Tom Ardavany as West. He is more restrained than Trey, but no less abhorrent.
- Zoe yanking out Jed’s intestines, Machete-style, from his belly! This gruesome kill is not campy [like Machete], but more visceral, literally. This is my #1 favorite scene!
- Daniel Knight as Sheriff Holt. He’s a well-meaning schlub. Not sure if he survived his wounds, but I hope so!
- Zoe coldly shooting arrow after arrow into Creed as he begs her to stop!
- “Angel! We got your boy-oy!” Trey sings, mocking The Warriors, as they leave Dane’s motel.
- Zoe fighting West on the bed of Trey’s pickup truck, Race with the Devil (1975)-style, as the vehicle speeds down the highway! Intense and exciting! This is my #2 favorite scene!
- Zoe repairing her broken body with duct tape, and replacing her innards with dirt and twigs!
- Zoe chucking a spear at Cody as he races toward her causing his car to roll as she dives from its path!
- Zoe killing West, cutting his heart out and taking a bite from it as Trey watches!
- Zoe fighting Trey with tomahawk versus chainsaw! This awesome climactic battle is my 3rd favorite scene!