If there's a theme prevalent in 2017 that I'd like to see continue on into the new year, it's the one where sexual assaulting, rapist asshole scumbags, continue to NOT get away with it - #metoo. And I'm not just speaking strictly within the reality that exists outside our films, but the one which exists within them as well. Truly, I'll be as thrilled as any to see the medium reflect the positive movement occurring with regards to sexual harassment and assault in all its forms, or even the acknowledgement of such perversion. We saw it directly tackled in Natalia Leite's harrowing thriller M.F.A., dramatically documented in Ben Young's Hounds of Love, and touched upon in other films to some degree (Richard Rowntree's Dogged, Kate Shenton's Egomaniac, and even Mike Flanagan's cinematic adaptation of Gerald's Game). Well then, what better way to ring in 2018 with a film that continues the tradition - and in a way that'll tickle your darker sensibilities.
Sargad (translates to "Wounded") is something of a passion project for the film's lead actress and writer, Sarah Giercksky. Fueled by her love for film and the rape-revenge sub genre, and inspired by real life events (mainly the death of her father), this Bloody Fierce Productions premiere feature has a lot of underlying significance, before even taking into account the film's story itself - which goes as follows:
Elina (Sarah Giercksky), along with her mother and sister, travel to an old cabin for a brief stay in hopes of visiting familiar grounds, in order to spread the ashes of her recently deceased father. Things seem to be going smoothly as Elina revisits old stomping grounds and reacquaints with old friends, but when three men violently disrupt what should have been an emotionally fulfilling journey towards closure, Elina is forced to confront the demons of her family's past head on.
It isn't long into the film that similarities in pacing, setup, and aesthetic between Sargad and the contemporary rape-revenge films which served as its inspiration, begin to reveal themselves. Certainly the plot itself, reads incredibly familiar, so any seasoned horror fan will know what to expect here. This familiarity, present throughout its run-time, gives the entire production a feeling of pastiche - something I can absolutely appreciate given the goals set forth by the creative team. Of course, it's one thing to celebrate through imitation and attempted iteration, and another to do so successfully, with quality results. And while Sargad definitely has its problems (mainly rooted in the pitfalls which come as a result of having a low budget), the film is mostly an enjoyable experience - especially if these kinds of films are your bag.
For me, Sargad was at its most effective when situations within the film were at their most chaotic; and if there was any one scene I could point to which best demonstrates this strength, it would have to be that critical character-defining moment in which Elina and her family are relentlessly humiliated, and brutally attacked. A tragic encounter, which serves as a turning point in the narrative, also happens to be the one in which every aspect of production fire on all cylinders. While it's a shame this level of polish isn't maintained throughout Sargad's entire runtime, I am glad to see it demonstrated where it mattered most. That's not to say the rest of the film is a slog - it really isn't - this just happens to be the shining highlight, one illuminated by impressive performances from the cast.
Sarah Giercksky leads the way here, bringing tenderness, vulnerability, and ferocity to the character of Elina. Early on, a loving sister, daughter, and friend, she is later transformed - forcefully - into a relentless, vengeful spirit; the transition itself, much like her retribution, is joltingly swift. The assailants themselves, while mostly played as weak-minded neanderthals, do have a standout mastermind among them; the explosive hothead, Alexander (Jesper Hall). A very welcome surprise indeed, Hall plays the role of repulsive asshole to an uncomfortably close degree; he almost seems to revel in it. The result is a villain you'll absolutely love to hate. As for the supporting cast, things range from serviceable to good, though no one hits the highs that Giercksky and Hall do. Xander Turian is naturally charming as (Elina's love interest) Oliver, this trait exemplified strongly in his soft and somber demeanor. Similarly, the character of Agnieszka (played by Sarah's real mother, Alicia Henriksson), exudes the kind of warmth that can only come as a result of having children you're close with. It never appears as though she's acting; impressive, given her experience. The second daughter, sister to Elina, is Lily - portrayed in a jovial manner by Tindra Hedlund. Birgitta Nord rounds things off as the tortured paranoid, Marit.
I pointed out that Sargad tends to find success within its most frenzied moments, and while the one described above stands out as the centerpiece example, many of the later scenes which make up the back half of the film, definitely stand on their own as memorable snapshots of violent revenge! There is one in particular - which I won't fully spoil - involving sharp objects and genitalia, that had me gasp, squint, and squeal as I repeatedly punched every pillow in my vicinity, attempting to - futilely - transfer that on-screen pain away from me. My warmest regards to Jasmine Martinez and the special effects team. You're a sick bunch of bastards.
And congratulations to the entire Bloody Fierce Productions crew. I know, probably a little more than most, the difficulties encountered by you lot in getting Sargad off the ground. Sure, it wasn't under the best conditions, but you still managed to put together a fairly entertaining homage; one with a nicely added subversive twist. If this film represents the start, I can only imagine what the future holds for new fans like me.
INFORMATION ON THE FILM'S RELEASE, DIGITAL OR OTHERWISE, CAN BE FOUND ON THE OFFICIAL SITE BELOW: