Avenged (2013)

Zoe is planning to move in with her boyfriend Dane who lives a few states away from her. While driving through the desert, she witnesses how two people of Native American descent are killed by a group of rednecks. They capture Zoe, and she is brutally tortured and raped. When she tries to flee from her capturers, gang leader West kill hers, and leaves her dead in the desert. Her body is found is by the old man Grey Wolf, who tries to resurrect her using an ancient Apache ritual. His attempt is noticed by the spirit of the old Apache chieftain Mangas Coloradas, who melds with Zoe’s mind as she is resurrected. The people who killed her are descendants of colonel Joseph Rodman West that wiped out the local apache population 200 years ago, among them chief Mangas Coloradas. Resurrected into a decaying body, Zoe is imbued with the strength, vigor and weapons of Mangas Coloradas, and is out to exert terrible revenge on her killers.

Avenged starts out like almost any other rape-and-revenge movie, with first 20 minutes that are quite difficult to watch, as Zoe’s ordeal is displayed in gruesome detail. These moments are staged very graphically, which, if you’re able to let yourselves get immersed into the situation, will enable you without hesitation to identify with Zoe’s craving to execute her torturers. Getting this emotional reaction from the viewers is one of the key elements of this type of movie and Avenged excels at it. The fact that Zoe is deaf makes her seemingly even more helpless, even though her silence and inability to hear her killers beg for their life makes the revenge part of the movie even more intense. The progressing decay of her body is also visualized in a rather unappetizing way and adds to the portrayal of her suffering. The tragic love story between Zoe and her boyfriend Dane gets sufficient attention which takes the edge off the movie a bit and makes it a lot more bearable knowing that there is some love left amongst all the hate and suffering Zoe is going through.

As for the acting, it’s certainly a standout performance by Amanda Adrienne Smith as the main protagonist Zoe. She has just an incredible presence in her role as the tormented undead avenger possessed by a Native American spirit. The rest of the cast also plays it well, especially the bad guys put on a sleazy performance. The portrayal of the redneck gang as a bunch of people that hate on everyone that is not white and male, and either kill them or rape them, certainly has a political undertone, even though admittedly not a very subtle one. The bleak setting of the desert town and its surroundings are captured beautifully and add to the intensity of the movie. There’s plenty of blood and gore as Zoe and Mangas Coloradas take their revenge in a shared body. A lot of it is rather extreme, as Zoe is ripping her adversaries apart one by one. Even though some scenes display creative ways of killing, there’s no comic relief or irony, only a persistent atmosphere of anger and grief throughout the whole movie.

Avenged demonstrates that you don’t need a high budget to put together a good movie. It is a gritty and nasty piece that still has its heart in the right place. The emphatic portrayal of Zoe and her tragic fate adds a unique feature to the simple, but compelling story, and makes the movie much less cynical and more bearable than your average exploitation movie.