DIRECTOR: NATALIA LEITE - WRITER: LEAH MCKENDRICK - 1H 32MIN
An art student taps into a rich source of creative inspiration after the accidental slaughter of her rapist. An unlikely vigilante emerges, set out to avenge college girls whose attackers walked free.
This one really snuck up on me. M.F.A. wasn't even on my radar until very recently, but I couldn't believe just how well timed the release was given the current climate in the film industry. Of course, if you've been living under a rock, I'm speaking specifically of all the sexual allegations which have come to light. M.F.A. being a rape-revenge film, felt exactly like the kind of cathartic cinematic release needed at a time like this. It's probably not a stretch to say that even with the amount of predators being exposed and humiliated, desire to take things up a notch on the scale of justice, more than likely sits within the hearts of the victimized and those empathetic to their plight. Putting it plainly, violent retribution. Within the horror genre, in films like these, it's the aspect most focused on - the glorification and fantasizing of said retribution. So color me surprised to find that this particular entry (directed by Natalia Leite and written by Leah McKendrick), while patterning some of its narrative against this familiar beat, spends a lot more of its time examining the parts of "rape-revenge" that aren't as easily glamorized. This is easily M.F.A.'s greatest strength, which makes the angle taken by its marketing department all the more disappointing, if not unexpected.
Typically, the revenge part of a rape-revenge film is played out to its conclusion with zero repercussions for the acts committed by the victimized vengeance seeker. It's a satisfying power-play in which all intended targets have one function and one function alone; to die in the most brutal way possible, providing audiences with a cathartic conclusion. However, M.F.A. bucks this trend in execution by grounding the actions with realistic consequences. For example, Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) has a roommate - also a victim of sexual assault - who upon learning what's happened to her friend, suggests that it be swept under the rug, and forgotten. Rather than comply, Noelle instead seeks violent retribution on her behalf (in addition to others) causing a disruptive wave which threatens to capsize the lives of those same people she aimed to avenge, ultimately taking some of the nobility away from her actions. It's hardly Hollywood, but I genuinely believe the film is all the better for it.
So if you happen to be a fan of this emotionally wringing sub-genre, understand that what you get here isn't necessarily what's being sold on the surface. M.F.A. isn't perfect by any stretch; it runs too long, has a weak supporting cast, and leaves some gaping logic holes exposed by its conclusion, but those problems fall by the wayside in the face of what I feel, is a quality that is far more important; refreshing honesty. And quite frankly - nowadays - that counts for a lot.