Our staff reviews the female-driven anthology “Shevenge” featuring twelve short stories about revenge and ladies who take justice into their own hands.
Intro by Angry Princess (Editor-in-Chief)
When I received an email from filmmaker Staci Layne Wilson asking if we might like to check out her latest passion project, I immediately knew the answer was not yes…but hell yes! She said, “I think this may be right up your alley,” and boy was she ever right. First of all, there are few things I love more than a great anthology film. The fact that this one happens to be an all female-led anthology of horror shorts on the theme of revenge made it that much more enticing.
Then I read that, as the film’s Producer (and one of its directors), Staci planned to donate all net profits to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund designed to help support women stand up to sexual harassment in the workplace.
After that, there was no way I wasn’t going to do everything I could to help spread the word about this incredible project and make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
Shevenge is made up of 12 different flicks ranging from subtle psychological scares to all-out gore. Sociopaths, serial killers, spirits, and avenging angels abound. Karma is a Bitch is inspired by the notorious Michelle Carter, who was convicted in 2017 in her boyfriend’s texting-suicide murder case… but of course, there’s a twist. Gun-toting ladies demand equal pay in Glass Ceiling and they’ll get it one way or another. A murderous mom goes after the bad guys in Hooker Assassin.
Other shorts include For A Good Time, Call… directed by Izzy Lee and starring Tristan Risk (American Mary), The Fetch directed by Cheryl Isaacson and starring Kathleen Wilhoite (Witchboard), and Psycho Therapy directed by Staci Layne Wilson and starring Brooke Lewis (Kinky Killers).
When I asked my incredible writing team if anyone wanted to tackle a review of the film for the site, the response was overwhelming. There was so much enthusiasm that we decided to do a group review and let multiple writers share their thoughts.
TAKE ONE: A COMPELLING AND EMPOWERING COLLECTION OF TALES BY AND FOR WOMEN
By Claire Smith
SHEVENGE gathers a terrifying and (as the title suggests) vengeful collection of women-empowered horror shorts.
Centered on the horrors of womanhood, from unequal pay to rape culture, misogyny and other issues, the anthology as a whole is a valiant and suitably terrifying homage to powerful women by powerful women, making it a prime addition to feminist-themed horror.
One of the highlights of the anthology is director, Izzy Lee’s For A Good Time, Call….
Deeply disturbing in both situational and supernatural aspects, Lee presents a horrifying yet liberating story of sharp karma. The story follows a sexual deviant, Alex who films a sexual encounter with a woman without her consent, the resulting footage then leaking onto the internet to the woman’s horror and humiliation.
It was so empowering to see a horror film bring light to such an issue, especially since it is a commonly disregarded cybercrime (along with similar offenses, such as revenge porn).
This lack of recognition is also addressed in the film, as the main antagonist dismisses his crime as just something ‘guys do’. However, Alex soon lives to regret his stance and actions as he is haunted by a ghost known as ‘Sylvia’, another woman exploited sexually by a man, who forces him to feel the same form of violation and fear she endured.
Even though his karma is dealt with a side dish of blood, it is impossible to feel sorry for Alex as he pays for the complete disregard and violation of his partner, who is horrified but avenged by Sylvia’s work. This film drags dismissive men like Alex into women’s shoes as his calls to police are ignored, he is forced into a vulnerable position with no power, his fear is mocked and his pain is sexualized.
This simple ‘what if it was you’ take on sexual crimes is perfect not only for this sweetly terrifying narrative but also the theme of shevenge.
My personal second favorite from Shevenge was Lady Hunters by Angela Atwood, who also stars in the film.
Following three sympathetic and frustrated mothers, the film covers the horrid nature and culture of rape, focusing on the issues of victim-blaming/harassment, light punishment for offenders and more. Although the progressive revelation of the horrific crime that centers the narrative will make your stomach sink for sure, it still an important film nonetheless.
What makes the film so realistic is that the three mothers, Hilde, Maya and Eleanor aren’t cold, hard killers. They’re just gossiping mothers frustrated with the court’s and public’s treatment/perception of rape and its survivors, deciding to take matters into their own hands in their small town plagued with the recent tragedy of the kidnapping and gangrape of a young girl.
Heart-wrenching yet powerful, Lady Hunters is a film that intends to speak to those familiar with the issues surrounding sexual assault in the justice system/public mind, and pries open the eyes of those who are ignorant to such injustice. It is a film one doesn’t simply forget.
Aside from the aforementioned starlets, the remainder of the anthology glows with a wide range of specific themes, tones and topics.
Each film is a blood-filled revenge narrative exploring the frustrations and injustices women face. Most importantly, each film allows its female characters to take back stolen power and validate themselves, eliminating the victim stereotype often seen in some horror narratives — instead empowering the female cast to become fighters and survivors.
TAKE TWO: AN IMPORTANT AND POWERFUL LOOK AT THE REAL LIFE HORRORS SO MANY WOMEN FACE
Shevenge (2019) is an anthology with a female perspective that pokes a lot of thumbs into male-dominant horror eyeballs. It should unsettle viewers — getting you to squirm in your chair, sometimes assisted by dark humor and other time with truly scary designs.
A film with twelve shorts is bound to have some bad, some good and a few superb parts. In this way, Shevenge does not deviate from expectation.
Among my favorites were Psycho Therapy, where a woman takes control of her life and treatment in the worst but in a liberating way.
Recipe 42 is another solid entry, where one foodie ventures beyond average and ascends into exotic recipes.
For me, however, the two biggest standouts of the twelve were Doll Parts and Metamorphosis.
Doll Parts centers around a man driving down a lonely rural road, where he encounters a few hitchhikers.
He seems very intrigued but cautious, which makes you wonder why he considers it. The answer becomes obvious after a suspicious hitcher scares him with her quick appearing boyfriend. But he soon discovers another hitchhiker more suited to his needs: a pale and lost young woman appears on the side of the road.
He picks her up, and her timid nature is perfect for him and his real intentions. I know what you’re thinking…things will probably not go to his way. And you’re right! He soon faces a nightmare which he’ll never forget.
Metamorphosis is the story of an elderly woman who owns a small urban Asian restaurant.
She is a tortured soul, and her daughter is a damaged young woman. The reasons become clear, in flashbacks, as the mother has a breakdown with hard and murderous ends. She discovers a cure to her angst, which doesn’t bode well for anyone in her sights. The ending is creepy and mysterious.
I suspect some people will find Shevenge to be silly and over the top.
Behind each tale is a very real issue, on how marginalized women have endured lots of abuse.
All horror films are fantasy. But the best ones often help us confront real life horror — giving us a peep into that which lurks in darkness but can do very real harm. Shevenge does a little dance around rules and gives a deserved middle finger to a few of society’s darkest secrets.
TAKE THREE: A TIMELY, VARIED ANTHOLOGY THAT DELIVERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Producer and director Staci Layne Wilson really hit the nail on the head with Shevenge.
I’ll admit, anthologies are a bit of a tough sell for me; I always want to love them. However, given their immersion in conceptually based novelty that usually hammers a single idea or theme to death (and not in the good way), more often than not I feel they don’t really deliver.
Shevenge was intriguing to me for two reasons: one, I loved the topic and two, it’s traditionally underserved from a female lens. When we think of “shevenge” style films, it’s not too hard to consider films like Wes Craven’s seminal Last House on the Left and Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave. These, however, are told from the male perspective and don’t have the same potency that a similar topic could deliver from people who really get it.
That’s not to diss on the classics – the rape revenge subgenre of horror is alive and well, and has been successful for decades for a reason.
But in the era of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, it was refreshing to see such a thoughtfully compiled list of short films which all showcased women telling their own stories.
Like with most anthologies, there were strong entries and weaker ones. However, I truly believe everyone will find at least one segment that has them pumping their fist at the screen, overjoyed by the delivery of sweet, sweet justice. I will add that none of the segments felt particularly scary to me, but I’m not certain that was the point.
The horror element stems more from the underlying knowledge that all of these scenarios, no matter how out of the box or wild they may seem, likely come from a place of real-life experience and resonate strongly from that.
It’s an effective, eye-opening experience to view cinema in this light; we know the creators are telling us a story for a reason, for the greater good of human knowledge, to push toward something beyond entertainment that transcends genre into social commentary and inspires a greater discussion.
Unlike many anthologies I’ve seen, the short films are categorized within their initial topic, segmented into themes within their overarching theme.
These segments include: Kiss and Kill, Murderous Moms, Anger Mismanagement, and Love You to Pieces. Staged like one of my all-time favorite anthologies, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, there’s a Scheherazade-esque storyteller (Vanessa Gomez) who introduces each segment in a whimsical, playful manner.
This part I found to be a bit over the top and unnecessary; at times, it added a comedic levity that I felt detracted from the overall quality of the film, and would have preferred a simpler, title-card style division. However, if you can trust that the segments themselves will be better than the introductions, you’ll be in for a wild ride.
I thoroughly enjoyed the dark, cautionary tale style thriller of Izzy Lee’s For A Good Time, Call which stars genre chameleon Tristan Risk (Amazon Hot Box, American Mary).
It warps the common trope of a leaked sex tape (without the lady’s knowledge) and took it on a hair-raising ride which culminates in an ending that isn’t quite so happy… for the guy.
Lady Hunters, directed by Angela Atwood, tells the tale of three mothers who go out to kill “a wolf”. This short really sold the idea of not only the power of strong, female friendships, but it was satisfying to see vigilante justice win out over one of the world’s many predators.
Hooker Assassin, directed by Misty Dawn, is a mean little flick that gave a tall ask for its two actors (Cortney Palm and Daniel Hampel). The standout performance by Palm of a mother who embraces the darkest parts of herself in order to save her child is one not to miss.
Cheryl Isaacson’s The Fetch tells the story of a water-scarce wasteland where the main cause for concern doesn’t end with a lack of resources. Sexual predators who take advantage of the downtrodden meet a clever, fitting end in this sun-drenched tale.
Doll Parts comes by way of director Karen Lam and is a beautifully put-together short about a serial killer who is about to have a very, very bad day. The unexpected ending is breathtaking, to say the very least.
My primary critique lies within the framing. I wish there had been better introductions of each short rather than the dissolution of them within sub-categories and then everything being listed in the credits for the viewer to sort out after the fact.
All in all, it was an enjoyable anthology that fits a strong narrative and left me excited for the capable independent filmmakers our genre has to offer.
TAKE FOUR: A FLAWED BUT VALIANT EFFORT WORTHY OF SUPPORT IN SPITE OF ITS MISSTEPS
By Joy Robinson
I will probably never get tired of watching horror movies where women murder men. I’m sure that says a thing or two about me. Maybe it’s a safe, controlled way to work out some of the feelings of anger, disgust, etc. I have toward men as a whole for… basically everything they’ve ever done in the history of the planet and the shit that they still do every damn day.
(Yes, it must be said: not all men, and I don’t condone real world violence, yada yada yada, but you get the idea.)
So when I heard about Shevenge, an anthology of films directed by women that center on vengeful ladies giving shitty men their just desserts? I was immediately sold.
Shevenge contains twelve films framed by our charming hostess Vanessa, who serves up tongue-in-cheek witticisms and seems to be having a delightful time (she definitely murdered all of her party guests).
The films are divided into four parts: Kiss and Kill, Murderous Moms, Anger Mismanagement, and Love You to Pieces. Like any anthology, some of Shevenge’s shorts are stronger than others, but many of them are solid despite becoming a little predictable after a while.
In the first section, Kiss and Kill, there are two very different standouts. “All Men Must Die” is about a couple of stoner best friends who fend off the unwelcome advances of a guy who won’t take no for an answer; “Just a Girl” is an experimental art short by Michelle Nessk about trauma and survival.
The two are polar opposites in tone. The former uses humor and cartoon inserts to give it a comic book vibe. The latter is emotionally raw and utilizes spoken word poetry to drive home the reality of assault. It’s one of the most gut-wrenching entries to the anthology. (Just a quick warning that if you are sensitive to flashing lights/strobe-like effects, you may want to skip this one.)
The highlight of Murderous Moms is easily “Lady Hunters.”
After learning that the man who orchestrated the kidnapping and gang rape of a teenage girl has been released from prison, a trio of WASP moms go full-on vigilante and decide to take him down.
In the Anger Mismanagement segment, a pair of hit women demand equal pay in the delightfully bloody “Glass Ceiling.”
But the strongest entry in the entire anthology is the final short, “Metamorphosis,” directed by Elaine Xia.
In 1990s Hong Kong, a woman and her daughter accidentally kill their abusive husband/father and dispose of the body by cooking him into meat pies for their restaurant. Mrs. Lovett would be proud. The film is so emotionally evocative and haunting that it almost feels out of place. It just seems to be on a very different level far and above the rest of the films.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of good stories in Shevenge. I’d say it’s about 50/50. Again, anthologies tend to be hit or miss, with some strong entries and some that just don’t quite work. Sometimes it’s the acting, sometimes the narrative isn’t cohesive enough, sometimes the story just falls flat.
My only legitimate grievance with the film is the lack of diversity.
Less than half (four out of twelve) of the shorts featured in Shevenge are helmed by women of color. Apart from “Metamorphosis” — directed by a Chinese woman and featuring an all Chinese cast — you can count on one hand the number of people of color in the entire film. At this point, that’s not even laziness. It’s a conscious choice.
A 2017 study found that in the United States black, Native American, and multiracial women experience rape at higher rates than women overall. (Of course, statistics can only be based on reported cases and sexual assault so often goes unreported.) Yet the victimization of white women has long been prioritized in discussions of sexual violence.
Most rape revenge films are about white women, and all of the victims in Shevenge are white — again with the notable exception of “Metamorphisis” and “Just a Girl,” which features images of many different women.
If the point is to highlight issues that are universally felt by women and showcase female voices in film, there needs to be greater focus on bringing together a diverse group of women both behind and in front of the camera.
Actually, I have two beefs with the film: my second problem is with a short called “Karma is a Bitch.”
The story is loosely inspired by Michelle Carter, who was convicted of manslaughter for allegedly coercing her boyfriend into committing suicide.
In this tale, a woman goads her girlfriend into killing herself. She tells her that she will never get better, romanticizes her mental illness, and berates her for being weak when she’s hesitant to end her own life. This is the only instance of non-heterosexuality in the film, and it takes the form of a horrendously abusive and dangerous relationship. Who thought that was a good idea?
To be fair, there isn’t a single healthy romantic or sexual relationship in the entire film, but this one really took me aback. Why deliberately change the gender of the victim, thus giving the whole story some unnecessary homophobic connotations? That’s a bad look.
Overall, Shevenge has its good points and bad ones.
Some of the shorts are fun, some are unnerving, and some just aren’t that great. If you are uncomfortable watching films that deal with sexual violence, you’re gonna want to sit this one out. If you’re a fan of rape revenge narratives, head on over to Prime and give the movie a shot. You’ll probably enjoy watching a bunch of predators get their throats slit, eyes gauged out, and so on.
It’s not going to be the best film you’ve ever seen, but it does leave you with a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served.
TAKE FIVE: LIKE MOST ANTHOLOGIES, IT’S A MIXED BAG — BUT ONE WORTH DIVING INTO
By Todd Reed
Revenge is a common theme in horror movies, especially female revenge movies. “I Spit on Your Grave”, “The Last House on the Left”, and “Hard Candy” are all excellent examples of the genre.
Given that these films were written and directed by men, I was interested in the idea behind “Shevenge”, an anthology of films all focused on revenge, all directed by women. It’s a great concept, and the net profits go to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
Like so many anthology horror movies, “Shevenge” has its highs and lows, with the quality varying a great deal.
During the opening short “Psycho Therapy”, my girlfriend walked in and asked if I was watching porn, and not because anything remotely ‘porn-like” was going on onscreen. “Psycho Therapy” is an intriguing idea about a woman confronting her therapist about why men cheat, but the production values and acting styles give off a heavy porn vibe. My girlfriend wasn’t off base to ask.
From there, the movie features segments that deal with everything from supernatural revenge seekers, to moms getting revenge for their daughters, to hired assassins who find out they’re not getting paid the same as their male counterparts. An eerie and delightfully wicked take on the Michelle Carter case is also featured.
One of the weakest parts of the film though, has nothing to do with the talented women directing the short films, and everything to do with the poor transitions between the films. Either there was nothing to let us know that one film had ended and another began, or it segued into bad Twilight Zone-like transitions hosted by Vanessa Gomez.
The highlight of the series of twelve films was the finale, Elaine Xia’s “Metamorphosis” is heartbreaking and brilliant as a wronged wife gets revenge on her husband and his lover.
Xia’s use of cinematography beautifully captures the metamorphosis happening on screen, and Cici Lau is pitch perfect as the wife.
Overall, “Shevenge” is definitely worth checking out, and it is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. There are some diamonds in the rough among the jewels, but each short film offers a unique vision of revenge.
TAKE SIX: A SOLID, HIGHLY WATCHABLE COLLECTION OF LADY-LED HORROR, BOASTING A FEW STELLAR STANDOUTS
By Jamie Alvey
It’s not often that audiences get to see revenge tales from strictly a woman’s perspective. Even when women are the focus on the front of the camera, there is often a man in the director’s seat and penning the screenplay. It’s not to say that some of these men tell the stories with the sensitivity and empathy needed, but it’s extremely important to let women also tell women’s stories.
Shevenge is a collection of shorts that does just that. All short films were helmed by women and center the female experience when it comes to revenge. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s horror for a good cause and all the money that the collection makes goes to Time’s Up.
As with all short film collections there are always the standouts, as well as the ones that would benefit from a feature length treatment.
Angela Atwood’s “Lady Hunters” and Elaine Xia’s “Metamorphosis” were my personal favorites. My only complaint about them is that they were shorts instead of features.
“Lady Hunters” leans into the darkly comedic as well as the extremely pertinent. I would love to see a feature of the three middle-aged women going around and giving rapists the fates that they truly deserve. It’s vigilante justice with a refreshing twist because it’s a group of women who could be your aunt, your friend’s mom, or a woman in your book club taking the law into their own hands.
Atwood handles the subject matter with the seriousness that it deserves while also injecting the piece with well-placed bits of humor. It’s nothing less than a treat. Hilde, Eleanor, and Maya are the heroines that we need for these trying times.
“Metamorphosis” brings a much needed dose of foreign horror flair to the anthology.
I’m honestly truly shocked that Xia hasn’t secured funding for a feature based on this exemplary short. Beautifully shot and centered on an abused woman in 1990’s Hong Kong, “Metamorphosis” offers a stellar performance from Cici Lau as the main character.
It’s a short that must be experienced to truly encompass the scope of it. There’s a great deal of mastery in this cannibalistic tale that takes revenge to the extreme in a satisfying way.
As a whole the anthology is definitely worth a watch and explores some prevalent female frustrations in both serious and campy measures as well.
The hostess in the wrap around segments comes across like an adorably macabre Katy Mixon. Other notable shorts in the collection are Izzy Lee’s “For a Good Time, Call…,” Tash Ann’s “Glass Ceiling,” and Misty Dawn’s “Hooker Assassin.”
Lee brings us a high concept vengeful spirit that gives a man the deadly retribution that he deserves, while the award for my favorite kill—and most inventive at that—without a doubt goes to Dawn.
If you’re in need of something to watch as we slip slowly into fall, Shevenge would be a perfect pick, giving you a more than decent helping of the dish that is best served cold.