Reviews: Avenged

This last week, we were asked to review a screener copy of Avenged, a sharp and brutal vengeance thriller.

To pull off his first full length film, director Michael S. Ojeda had to wear many hats. Its the monumental task many directors take when making their first movie. A limited budget calls for a lot of ingenuity and dedication, and Ojeda rises to the challenge, taking the term “labor of love” to a whole new level. Avenged (formally known as Savaged) begins with some beautiful scenic shots. Ojeda’s influences are immediately noticeable. His use of saturated filters produces some impressive imagery, giving the film a warm stylized 70‘s look. Its a nice approach that grabs a viewer’s attention before smacking them in the mouth with a gruesome story.

"Gimme a smooch daddy-o!"
Avenged stars Amanda Adrienne as Zoe, a deaf woman traveling across the deserts of Southwest America to move in with her long distant boyfriend. With a storyline that harnesses the revenge theme of The Crow, Avenged plays out with a unique Pet Sematary twist that enhances an already well written story.

Adrienne shines in this action horror flick. She auditioned for the part via a casting ad Ojeda posted on Craigslist. (It doesn’t get much more grassroots than that!) The script required a wide range of emotions, and Adrienne’s versatility gives justice to the complicated role. To help better perform the physicality the role demanded, Adrienne paid for martial arts classes out of her own pocket while waiting for production to start. Its a strong role for a woman, and she does not disappoint. What’s most refreshing is Adrienne isn't overly exploited in the role. While very attractive, her role doesn't go the typical comic book route with excessive cleavage and ridiculously tight outfits. Avenged’s tasteful approach gives viewers a positive contrast to the saturated market of over-sexualized roles many woman have to endure. 

Adrienne’s performance is proof a woman can hold a strong role on her own merits, without using sexuality as a crutch to buy a viewer’s attention first. In a balanced contrast, the action also maintains a realistic level, especially when considering much of the film revolves around the supernatural. There are no ridiculous super powers or over the top stunts. This helps keep the film grounded, allowing viewers to focus on the story. In many ways it makes the film more human.

"Things are getting ugly."
The make-up is top notch disgusting, and I mean that as a compliment in every way possible. Paired with some gruesome cringe worthy special effects, Avenged has plenty of gore to please horror fans. Its a rare case to see a horror film spend as much detail on the story and plot as it does on it’s ghastly imagery. As a result it gives the film layers, which in turn gives it the depth that many offerings in this genre lack.

For his first film, Ojeda impresses on many levels. From it’s beautiful locations, impressive action sequences, and solid script, Avenged is pieced together at an enticing pace that easily holds a viewer’s attention. For an independent film, it certainly plays like a film with a bigger budget. With a perfect ending that doesn’t try to do too much, Ojeda’s impressive editing is the cherry on top. It’s an impressive debut that will no doubt earn the director and his cast some serious street cred.

-Lee Lind