Review: Bound to Vengeance (aka Reversal) Wastes a Great Premise

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Bound to Vegeance (aka Reversal) exists on the fringes of a few other films. J.M. Cravioto’s revenge-horror admirably attempts to subvert the million ways we’ve seen this story of a captive girl told. It begins with the cathartic escape, thankfully sparing the audience 75 minutes of a woman tied (or chained) to a chair (or bed). Her captor speaks of the boyfriend, whose hunt for her led him to larger horrors, sparing the audience another amateur detective thriller. Yet for all its unique perspective, Bound to Vegeance is told with far too familiar aesthetic, emptily recalling the dirt-smeared 2000s horror of Rob Zombie and Marcus Nispel. 

The film opens, ironically, to the tune of soft rock, as Richard Tyson’s Phil, the man holding several women hostage in various houses and holes around Los Angeles, goes about his routine. He prepares a soup for Eve (Tina Ivlev, a Russian ringer for Jennifer Lawrence), who in turn has prepared a brick for Phil. She flees, with Cravioto lensing her every move from some sort of object she utilizes: the brick, the chain that holds her foot, the home phone. This continues throughout the film. It’s inventive until it’s tiring. Upon her search of the home she’s been kept in, Eve finds polaroids of girls in the same, squalid situation. One makeshift control pole later, she’s forcing Phil on a journey to free her unfortunate counterparts.

Again, this idea of reversing both the drawn out captive’s tale and the self-empowered revenge is refreshing. Eve’s moment is quick, nasty and stylish. Her verve to help other women do the same then should be exhilarating. Instead, it’s a redundant affair, with overemployed visual trickery and constant stating of the film’s themes and inner conflicts. Phil tries to convince Eve she isn’t helping anyone at all and Cravioto, and scripters Keith Kjornes and Rock Shaink, Jr., in the process makes a case why the films Bound to Vegeance attempts to upend do focus on just one girl. Not everyone has the same will.

Some of the girls Eve is intent on freeing are just too far gone and, as a horror film needs a body count, are tastelessly done away with—the film’s charge to look cool conveniently and momentarily forgetting that until seconds ago, they were victims of terrible suffering. Meanwhile, between each fetid, neon prison, Eve (and the audience) continues to suffer by listening to Phil’s endless musings on her and her plight. What’s worse is that much of Tyson’s monologues or exchanges with Eve are noticeably dubbed, their mouths often obscured by shadow and his grunting mixed so high, it’s as if he’s straining right there with you.

Like Eve’s character, the purpose with which so many girls are taken is implied, but not developed. Ivlev gives an earnest effort at the emotional struggle of steely resolve and self-doubt, but the film doesn’t back her up. Instead, its best effort is to regularly, insipidly and disruptively flashback to a self-filmed carnival date. Bound to Vegeance is too content to rest on the laurels of its setup, but by the time it echoes Rob Zombie’s Halloween (?) with a scene scored by “Love Hurts” (in Spanish), all goodwill is (I’m so sorry) reversed.

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Weekend: Jun. 27, 2019, Jun. 30, 2019

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