• Kelly M. Hudson

Act of Vengeance! (Badass Femme Week Pt.1)

Linda (Jo Ann Harris) gets attacked one night on her farm by a man wearing a hockey mask. He tears her shirt off and tells her he’s going to rape her, that he’s the best she’ll ever have. She fights and fights but he beats her down and takes what he wants, making her sing “Jingle Bells” while he rapes her. She goes to the police but it doesn’t do much good; the man wore a mask and was almost completely unidentifiable. While at the precinct, she is subjected to one humiliating moment after another, the police treating her like she got knocked on the head, not violated. Through a couple of encounters, she learns of other victims of this same rapist, and she gathers them together. They form a sort of team, learning karate and other ways to defend themselves. Angry that the cops won’t do anything, and pissed that society doesn’t seem to care, they’re going to take matters into their own hands. Their squad patrols the bars and streets at night, finding and punishing reputed rapists in the area. They work their way up until, eventually, they find the monster that brought them all together, and they go for their revenge.

Act of Vengeance was originally title Rape Squad and while that name might feel more garish and gross, it’s actually a better representation of what goes down in this film. Yes, it’s another of dozens of rape/revenge flicks from the 70s and 80s, but mostly what impressed me about it were the girl-power aspects. These women really do take the power back, and God help any evil bastard who gets in their way. Yeah, it’s heavy-handed in its approach to violence against women: most of the men are actual rapists, idiots who don’t understand, or rapist-adjacent. Not a lot of sympathy for them at all. And yeah, it’s a bit preachy and didactic, but given that this horrible evil keeps inflicting women every day, maybe the film isn’t obvious enough. What is obvious is that these women refuse to take any shit, and they literally kick the ass of anyone who gets in their way. And that’s inspiring. No longer the victims, the badass femmes are taking charge of their bodies and their lives.

Of course, there’s plenty of triggers in this movie, and it doesn’t shy away from the severity of rape or its consequences. Nor should it, I think. If you’re going to go there, you might as well be honest about it. So be warned that these things take place in this movie, but I never once felt they were meant to titillate or be enjoyable. They’re gross and weird and very, very uncomfortable. But that’s the kind of thing an exploitation movie can do that a Hollywood or mainstream flick can’t: be honest, be raw. Act of Vengeance is all of these, rolled up into one.


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