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Violation Review: A Subversive Rape Revenge Film That Explores Trauma

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Debuting on the streaming service Shudder after playing several film festivals, Violation is a rape revenge drama that quickly subverts expectations. It’s chilling, emotional, and manages to avoid showing the rape that is at the center of the film. Written-directed by Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Violation is trenchant and effective, deftly handling the emotional trauma at its core.

After years of estrangement, Miriam (Sims-Fewer) and her husband (Obi Abili) decide to join her younger sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and brother-in-law Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) at a cabin for some rest and relaxation. Tension is everywhere, though — it bubbles in the heated arguments Miriam has with Greta, years of built-up anger and resentment rising to the surface with the uttering of a few harmful, misunderstood words and conversations; it rears its head in Miriam’s strained marriage; and, later, in the relationship she has with Dylan, a childhood friend. Miriam puts her trust in Dylan, opens up to him by revealing long-held secrets, only for him to betray that closeness by raping her, a violation that changes everything for Miriam and drives her to revenge in the back half of the film.


Violation is first and foremost about surviving trauma. The film isn’t interested in simply showcasing the brutality of Miriam’s rape, but of her feelings and actions in the aftermath. The writer-director duo handle Miriam’s pain incredibly well, allowing her the space and the time to cope, but also understanding how difficult it can be to do so. In this vein, it’s certainly not an empty revenge film at all; it goes to an incredibly dark place without bypassing the journey and development to get there. Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer make for an outstanding team as they weave and sort through Miriam’s mindset in the wake of what transpired.

The act itself is devastating, but Violation doesn’t employ the long, disconcerting scene for the sake of shock value. Rather, it's intensely focused on Miriam’s reaction to the rape, which is central to the raw, devastating turmoil that colors her thoughts. It’s also astute of the filmmakers to have shot the entirety of the sequence with a focus on Miriam’s minute reactions to what’s happening. The camera never leaves her face and the audience is drawn into the painful, traumatic experience along with her. Sims-Fewer portrays Miriam with simmering, yet controlled anger. Her performance is raw and poignant, layered with vulnerability, strength, and is full of conviction. No one is on Miriam’s side and she is alone. With no one to talk to about it, the trauma of the violence lingers in ways that set Miriam off at various stages throughout the film.


Being able to feel all that Miriam is feeling is a testament to how good Sims-Fewer is in the role. She brings so much depth and striking emotion to an already powerful and evocative film. What’s more, Violation importantly examines the dismissive attitudes embedded in society, which highlight the toxicity of rape culture and the blame lobbied at women that so often accompanies it. Miriam’s relationship with her Greta is already strained and the film showcases how these bonds are unraveled even further and how women can so easily uphold patriarchal and sexist ideas that feed into victim-blaming and shaming.

Violation is visceral, intense, deeply uncomfortable, and heartbreaking. It’s also not for the faint of heart, gruesome and dark in so many ways. The cinematography is especially captivating and the use of sound effective, with the scene transitions offering somewhat of a break from the harshness of reality while also allowing the audience to sit with their own emotions regarding all that’s happening. Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer are assured filmmakers and their skills bring a multifaceted, emotionally raw story that will simultaneously captivate and haunt the audience.

Violation is available to stream on Shudder as of March 25, 2021. The film is 107 minutes long and is not yet rated.

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