Review: SCAVENGER (CARRONA), An Imbalance of Post Apocalyptic Thrills And Relief From Savage Violence
Tisha is an assassin and organ dealer in a post-apocalyptic world. After doing a job Tisha is asked by her handler to visit an old woman outside of town. The old woman wants to hire her to kill someone at the brothel she once worked at. Once Tisha sees who it is she takes no money and heads out to the brothel with only revenge on her mind.
Scavenger is the feature film debut directed by Luciana Garraza and Eric Fleitas. The pair also share writing and production credits with Sheila Fentana. They are part of a crop of young directors emerging in the LatAm region doing whatever it takes to get movies made in the territory. Where there is a will there's a way kind of stuff.
Scavenger does bear all the bumps and bruises of a micro-budget genre film, and that’s okay. There is an allowance that you make for DIY micro-budget genre film. Sometimes success comes with just being able to make a movie in the first place. You make concessions for films that obviously are working on a small budget. But that’s the production side of things and for what it is worth Garraza and Fleitas do a great job of Mad Max’ing their movie, sticking with an already familiar art direction style - rubber, leather, spikes and more rubber.
They also make use of some great in camera gore and makeup effects as well. For the hardcore horror fans they will delight in seeing some gruesome gore effects done in camera. Near the end of the film Tisha picks up a weapon that is particularly destructive, one that gives us some nice Quick and the Dead results as she destroys a couple bad guys. And since unwilling organ donations are on the table expect some in-body effects too, with a fair amount of entrails and meat in the film as well.
Some of Scavanger feels very naive as well. I’ve never understood how audiences at strip clubs are portrayed on film. Look, am I going to argue with the hulk sitting in front of me about waving his axe above his head, that it's just poor form? No. Probably not. It’s also rude to keep it on the table in such a state as well. But the clientele at this outland brothel are hardly peak specimens either. You know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it so many times, that fake enthusiasm that extras are asked to portray, shaking their hands in the air and cheering. I’ve never waved my hands in the air, ‘Whee! I’m in a strip club!’.
But with every opportunity you have to make a movie there are opportunities to learn from them and improve. Our concerns here and for future projects from these filmmakers is in their story. This is where we want to raise a concern we have about Scavenger once Tisha goes to the brothel. Specifically we need to talk about what we have to go through in order to get to our reward, Tisha’s vengeance!
Once Tisha is in the brothel she gets captured and attacked. The villain is not content to attack her once so he does it again, with a different ‘weapon’. The very nature of this attack already asks a lot from at least half of your audience while the other half of us should not be asked to tolerate this much of this kind of violence either. There’s that.
That being said, she finds her fortitude and carries out her revenge on her attacker and his goon squad. The other problem here is that there is nearly not enough of it to reward us for what we have just gone through. It almost feels like an afterthought, ‘Oh. And she gets revenge. The End’. Yes, the gun she picks up and uses has an extra feature added on that is creative and fun but there is also a lot of violence that is done off screen and we should not have been denied that.
The gory violence and viscera bookend a story that tends to lose focus and occupies itself with senseless filler. For instance, after he attacks Tisha the boss of the brothel is called out to go to another location they run. Then we’re watching him sit at the bar, for quite a while, order a drink and wait for his girl to come out so they can go. I mean, really? Why? To what end? The movie flat out stalls here because nothing is happening. Nothing of any importance. Which is probably why it feels like even less time is spent on Tisha getting her revenge at her captors. Who wants to see the boss sitting at a bar, ordering a drink while waiting for his girl when we could be watching Tisha slice and dice more throats down in the bowels of the brothel?
Early films are an opportunity to learn and build on your craft. It is too soon to tell what kind of filmmakers Garraza and Fleitas want to be. No one makes a career out of making post apocalyptic horror flicks all the time. Whatever they work on next, together or apart, they should keep in mind what kind of audience they want to entertain and share their stories with.
Horror audiences want to be grossed out and entertained but they also need something to release them from that guilty pleasure. If you’re not doing that then they’re stuck with that sick feeling in their stomach. And if you’re delivering even harsher violence there has to be at least a balance of relief afterwards and unfortunately Scavenger does not do enough of it. More attention to use of their time will also make Garraza and Fleitas better storytellers and filmmakers.