Dir. Monica Carpanese & Dario Germani (2022)
A sinister playboy finds himself drawn to a mysterious woman named Emmanuelle with a nefarious agenda.
Rape revenge movies have a long history in the horror genre. It's a tough history, too, filled with claims of misogyny (with quite a few being completely justified) and the over-sexualization of women in an attempt to draw in male viewers while still maintaining its critique of their gaze. It's a fine line to walk, and it's very seldomly done well. Films like I Spit On Your Grave come across as more sadistic fantasy than socially conscious art, while The Last House on the Left is an all-timer in the horror genre because of its brilliant immersion in both shocking and grueling terror and its terrifying inclusion of scenes of screwball comedy. By and large, however, the genre tends to fall along the lines of the former, with seemingly every grindhouse filmmaker from the 70's making an attempt to throw as much nudity on screen as possible while vaguely hinting at a larger message.
Playboy Leonardo (Gianni Rosato) has no problem drawing in women, who he subsequently uses and abuses until he's done with them. Emanuelle (Beatrice Schiaffino) is determined to make him pay for his most recent transgression, and she lures him into an S&M game in an attempt to break him down in every way imagineable. Will she be able to ruin his reputation, his business, and potentially even his relationship with his own daughter? Well, she's damn sure gonna try.
While today's film doesn't necessarily belong in the horror genre itself, it ties in very closely to the rape revenge movies of the past by becoming an erotic thriller with a twist. It has its fair share of titillation, of course, but it manages to weave a wicked tale of revenge that is shockingly effective. There were scenes within the film that I was surprised were included, mouth agape as I watched them unfold. It somehow never crosses the line into indecency, managing to become equal parts carnal and clever and carrying the audience's attention throughout. The acting, led by Beatrice Schiaffino as the titular Emanuelle, is excellent throughout.
That's not to say it's all sunshine and roses, of course. The movie passes fairly slowly, building itself into much more of a thriller than revenge movies from yesteryear. There's zero brutal violence: Emanuelle is much more concerned with breaking her "victim" mentally than psychologically, and she does a stellar job of doing so. Writer/director Monica Carpanese has created a film where the audience is firmly behind Emanuelle, waiting to see what she's going to do next while gritting their teeth at how far Carpanese will allow her to go. It's an exercise in restraint, an astute choice in a movie that uses its fair share of ropes and whips.
If you're coming to Emanuelle's Revenge with the expectation that it's going to be another brutal hack-and-slash rape revenge, you will be wildly disappointed. The torture inflicted is mental, a pure example of how to ruin someone without removing body parts. It's also stylish and sexy as hell, taking the "erotic" part of erotic thriller and running with it. It's an excellent movie, but it's definitely not one you want to watch in front of the kids. For a film that opens with a victim of sexual violence walking the streets of Milan half-clothed, it contains a beautiful tale of love and accountability, an excellent Italian revenge story with quite a lot of heart. I'm impressed.
Who this movie is for: Revenge movie lovers, Thriller fans, Butt plug enthusiasts
Bottom line: I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this film, which is a shame on me moment because it comes from the fantastic distribution company Cinephobia Releasing. I have yet to be disappointed with one of their films, and this one is no different. It's a sexy, taut thriller with some outstanding acting, gorgeous cinematography, and a stellar story. I highly recommend giving this one a shot, just don't expect to see any penile maimings within.