You know how sometimes you think we’ve made great strides against systemic racism since the 70s, what with our black president and our integrated schools, and then the police go around and kill every black person they see and you’re like “oh wait, nevermind, we’re still not that great at this.” Act of Vengeance is like that, except with rape.
Act of Vengeance, filmed in 1974, starts out with a guy in a hockey mask and a jumpsuit (BEFORE Friday 13th or Halloween, by the way) beating and raping a woman while forcing her to sing Jingle Bells. I’m….guessing that was probably intended to be all dark and twisted and fucked up, but it just kind of feels like he’s not really taking this whole rape thing very seriously.
Which, as it turns out, is totally fine, because neither do the cops.
Yes, get ready for a horrifically depressing scene of a distraught woman going to the police station to report a brutal and violent rape and then being told to calm her pretty head and think about how maybe she was encouraging it because of course that’s what the cops said. But this was filmed a solid forty years ago, so OF COURSE everyone used to be callous, sexist supporters of an insidious rape culture. NOT LIKE TODAY. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Oh sweet jesus.
And of course this particular rape victim finds out that several other women were ALSO raped by the man they’ve decided to call Jingle Bells instead of Hockeymask Rapey McEvilfuckunt, which is what I may have leaned towards because I feel it captures his essence a little better, but fine, Jingle Bells it is. And of course all these other women have had zero luck going through any sort of law enforcement channels because ughhhhhhh fuck everything.
So naturally, the women snap together and create what they call the Rape Squad (these guys were really not so good at the nicknames) to track down and beat up rapists until they can find Jingle Bells. I….just…..when you hear “THE RAPE SQUAD IS GOING AFTER JINGLE BELLS!”….who do you assume is the bad guy? What even was the 70s, you guys.
The rest of the movie is just ragingly violent girl power in polyester flare legs until the final boss fight against Jingle Bells. Now, normally I’m what you would call “anti-murder” but it’s really hard to not root for a team of rape victims hunting down their shitty, shitty rapist to beat his head in. Will the ladies succumb to their weak lady brains and lady muscles and lose the fight against their strong, masculine opponent who has strong man brains and man muscles? Or has Jingle Bells JINGLED HIS LAST BELL? More importantly, will the victor get off without murder charges because the victim was just dressed really murderably that day and really, anyone probably would have gotten the impression that they really wanted to be murdered?
Now, in terms of the movie being actually GOOD……eh. It takes on some pretty compelling subject matter, but then there’s the Christmas carols, and the acting, and the costumes, and just dear shitting christ it’s so relentlessly 70s. (Except for the cultural attitude of the white males in power towards rape victims, which was truly ahead of its time. HURRAY.) I would only really recommend it if you super love giant lapels and feeling depressed about rape culture in 2015. Though really, the weird juxtaposition of those two IS kinda worth it, if you also like feeling vaguely confused.
….TWO AND A HALF HORRORS.