Michael S. Ojeda’s Avenged is a movie that has struck the perfect combination between classic exploitation films and modern horror, combining the sweeping shots of dusty isolated highways and murderous (vaguely incestuous) families of the 70’s with today’s modern technology and supposedly tolerant social views.
Avenged tells the story of Zoe (Amanda Adrienne), a beautiful young deaf woman, who is travelling through the south-west of America when she stumbles upon a pack of rednecks, led by Trey (Rodney Rowland) and West (Tom Ardavany), murdering two Native American men. Breaking the first rule of every horror movie, Zoe pulls her car over and tries to help one of the men escape. In reward for her human decency, she is captured, brutally raped, tortured and murdered.
A witch doctor comes across her corpse and attempts to bind her spirit back to her body. The ceremony goes awry and Zoe’s spirit and that of an Apache Warrior Chief (who was coincidentally murdered by Trey’s great-great grandfather) are bound to Zoe’s decaying body, intent on revenge.
The thrust of Avenged lies within its first dreamlike ten minutes, in which Zoe drives through America, all wide-eyed and innocent, looking forward to moving in with her fiancé. That first bit of violence feels like a sudden blow to the face with a sledgehammer. One minute you’re sharing Zoe’s tranquil trip through the desert, the next the viewer is watching a man get hit by a car and a young girl with her entire life ahead of her get violently assaulted and murdered. The rape scene itself is incredibly hard to watch, it is violent and it is brutal, showcasing the absolute worst of humanity.
It is in these scenes of carnage that the film’s low budget really plays in its favour, the simplicity allowing the viewer to constantly remember that the violence depicted isn’t without a point. Every horrific act, which Zoe and the Apache chief later inflict, comes from a place of revenge – and not one of cruelty for the sake of cruelty.
Even though Avenged is an entertaining, great little gem of a movie, it is not without its weaknesses, the main of which being the actors themselves. This isn’t to say that the acting is particularly bad or god-awful, but the strong concept and story require much more from the actors than what is given. Ojeda’s love for the genre is so clear, that the weak parts of the movie really stand out. Another flaw with the movie is that, on occasion, production values resemble true-crime re-enactments, in which victims tell their horrific stories in a dark room, whilst a group of extremely attractive actors act them out.
If you’re on the lookout for a great low-budget horror film, and if you like to chart the growth of a talented emerging director, then Avenged should definitely be on your to-watch list. While the violence is graphic, bloody and gory, there is a point to it and there is never a more satisfying moment than when a racist, misogynist red neck gets shot with an arrow by an Apache Warrior sharing the body of a pretty deaf girl.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10