Two girls rip the tarp off of a pristine 1968 Pontiac GTO, “Dad’s pride and joy”. They look like they could be sisters, but one says, “Dad always wanted you to have it,” and isn’t clawing the other’s eyes out at the time, so I assume they are mother and daughter.
New car recipient, Zoe is deaf. She is setting out on a long trip through the southwest to see her boyfriend and her mother is worried about “a lot of crazies out there.”
Frankly, in the first 3 minutes, we get two signs that do not bode well for the film. When Zoe starts the car, presumably after a long time in storage, the close-up shot of her hand turning the key is in slow motion — I don’t think the director knows what slow motion is for.
Then, as she takes off for her adventure, the opening traffic scenes have all the color washed out like the new generation of filmmakers think is cool — it’s not. Especially, if she is going to be driving through the gorgeous southwest with blue skies and red rock. She had better open the car-door like Dorothy at some point and see some color.
Two more signs in the next 5 seconds: 1) She texts her boyfriend while driving on an 8-lane highway. 2) He sees the text and kisses the phone. Has any man ever done this?
Later, on a 2-lane road, she continues not only texting, but taking pictures while driving. She is not so lucky this time as she looks up to see a man in the road. She swerves at the last second and misses him, but he goes down like Frasier anyway. She then sees a man running furiously toward her, followed by some yahoos in a pick-up. The man is presumably running to check on his friend, but then the men in the pick-up run him down.
Zoe bravely goes back and drags the man she almost killed into her car, but the savages in the pickup catch her before she can get away. They finish slashing him to death in the front seat, ruining the classic upholstery.
They capture her and sadly, the world they take her to contains no more color than the landscape. It takes literally 5 seconds before they have her tied down in the garage with barbed wire and are raping her. They have figured out that she is a “deaf mute” (even though she can speak awkwardly). After taking turns with her, they go to play poker (note restraint of “poke her” pun).
For a mute girl, she makes quite a few groans of pain as she agonizingly slides her wrists out of the barbed wire cuffs. She makes a valiant attempt to escape, but is caught and stabbed to death and buried in a shallow grave — is there any other kind in horror movies? Digging a hole is a lot of work, but it pretty much puts a stop to resurrections. In the real world I mean, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Still, a shallow grave is better than a cave with a rock rolled in front of it.
Miraculously, in the middle of this vast nothingness, she is found where she was carelessly buried with her hand sticking out of the ground. Even more miraculously, she is found by a Native American who takes her back to the official Sacred Indian Burial Grounds which apparently now have plaques. With all black actors apparently experiencing full employment, no Magic Negro is available. So the film opts for the Noble Savage who, like all Hollywood minorities can speak to the dead and cast spells.
After some authentic ancient chanting and dancing and smoking 11 herbs and spices in the tradition of his elders, rituals unchanged in hundreds of years — in front of his RV — the Indian brings her back to life. He brings her so far back to life that she begins levitating and her eyes turn black, clearly possessed by evil. But that passes and she is back on the ground with her regular eyes. Thanks for saving her life and all, but a really Noble Savage would have also restored her speech. And given her bigger boobs.
She wakes up and stumbles back into town, finding the last pay-phone in America. She calls her boyfriend, but communication is difficult what with her still being deaf. As luck would have it, she sees a police car, but it is manned by Jed, one of the men who raped her. And I use the term “men” pretty loosely here.
Rather than take cover, she follows him into the bar. As he is joyfully describing the disgusting scenario to the bartender, Zoe walks in. Some of the other “men” see her, and call out to him. Despite some ill-advised jump-cuts, it is a great scene of Zoe meting out some real social justice, resulting in a tug-of-war with Jed’s intestines (pulling out about 20 feet, still leaving him with more intestinal fortitude than John Boehner). Too bad it wasn’t in color.
She awakens in a barn, perfectly stocked with a landscaping inventory that brings a smile to her face: axes, saws, hedge trimmers, and a long bow. Which one of these gardening implements is not like the others? Of course, she still has the rest of the gang to bring to justice. She will indeed mow them down; sadly, not with the actual mower.
The degree of difficulty here is that even though she was resurrected and is seeming unstoppable, she is continuing to deteriorate — and smell — just as if she were still dead. She is shot, but it just leaves a nasty hole. She pulls off a ring, and it drags off a sleeve of finger skin. She unwraps the bandages from the where the barbed wire had restrained her — it is now gaping wounds infested with worms and maggots.
In the fine tradition of many films — and it never gets old — Zoe starts picking them off, even as she is literally falling apart. This is good stuff with some creative scenes. The boyfriend is fairly superfluous. Minor complaint — it might get too mystical for some near the end. It just so happens that the Native American spirit that possessed her had a feud with an ancestor of the scamp who raped her. So, while Zoe was indeed physically killing off the gang, the spirit was doing a lot of the driving. I hated to see her motivation diluted like that, but it was not a deal-breaker. All that really holds it back is the God-awful cinematography.
-  It’s like when elite ivory tower intellectuals decided plot was too dreadfully pedestrian for great novels and nearly killed them off.
- Title Analysis: The original title, Savaged, was better. The title Avenged just reminds us that she is mostly the passive beneficiary of the spirit’s actions.
- One of the hicks refers to a cache of weapons as a cashay. I’d really like to know if that was the character or the actor.
- It is incredible how impervious to pain this gang is — disemboweling, multiple arrow shots, an arrow through the neck, a pool cue in the eye, a severed hand. They don’t all live, but they don’t seem crazy in pain either.