Director – Bob Kelljan
Cast – Jo Ann Harris, Peter Brown, Jennifer Lee, Lisa Moore, Connie Strickland, Patricia Estrin, Lada Edmund Jr., Tony Young, Steve Kanaly, Ross Elliott, John Pickard
Release Year – 1974
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I came across this late 70s exploitation piece late one night and figured I’d give it a go given my love for vengeance and the fact that I had never before seen a film with this awesome storyline. Of course with films such as this there is a high risk involved given most of them are heavily flawed (which is why you never hear of them) and that was the case with this one. While it has many cool elements that would have made for an incredible experience, the screenplay leaves much desired and left me with just a mediocre experience in the end.
When Linda is brutally raped by a man donning a hockey mask she finds insensitive hostility from the authorities and also learns that her rapist is in fact a serial-rapist who has raped other women. Seeing that the authorities are not taking her and the other victims’ cases seriously she employs them and forms the “Rape Squad”, a vigilante group that will not only seek out their rapist but strike fear in every other rapist in town.
You know I love vengeance, and this plot bleeds vengeance on epic levels. I have come across numerous films that involve women getting vengeance on their attacker but never one in which they form a “squad” to achieve the justice the justice system is failing to give them. The rape scenes were intense and writers David Kidd and H.R. Christian made sure the scenes would have a heavy impact on the viewer by making them slow-burning and heavy in the level of violence. The rapist not only rapes and bludgeons his victims but he makes them sing “Jingle Bells” aloud until he is finished with them, a tactic I found incredible and of course horrifying at the same time. While the horror is great and used fairly often (although not often enough), there are numerous faults with the film that made it sometimes unenjoyable for me. For one the dialogue makes it incredibly preachy and propagandish, something that I never enjoy seeing in the horror genre regardless of what it is. In addition to that I found heavy issue with the female rape squad characters. Given they were raped and denied justice I should feel bad for them right? Well the way they were executed left them very unlikable which left me not caring for them regardless of what happened. I found issue with this because if I care for them I am more engaged in what is going on, but sadly that was not the case.
Director Bob Kelljan did a good job overall but the storyline really held him back in the end. His execution of the horror / rape scenes was fantastic and shot in a brutally full-frontal fashion and was the source of most of what was good about this piece. Sadly his execution of the actors was poor and aided the storyline in making them cliche and highly unlikable, a fault that I am sure will turn off a lot of people who went into this expecting something better.
Overall, Act of Vengeance is an obvious vengeance tale that brings forth an awesome storyline heavy on revenge but also sadly heavy in propaganda and poor execution of characters we are supposed to root for. The horror is not very prevalent but it is downright awesome when it hits the screen, which is the main reason why this received a mediocre rating and nothing lesser.