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Scary Movies: Hard Candy and other Tales of Revenge

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Whether or not the movie Hard Candy frightens you is going to depend entirely on whether or not you have testicles. My male friends cringed throughout this movie and tell me it scared the hell out of them. I had an entirely different experience. It was the first thriller I have ever watched without being frightened. The entirety of the film is based on the interplay between two characters alone together in an isolated house. The male character might be a child molester and pornographer. Or he might not. The young girl may just be totally batshit. I don't want to give too much away, because much of the suspense hinges on uncertainty. But I have become so used to watching women get victimized, that it was kind of refreshing to see the tables turned. I even caught myself rooting for the girl as I questioned her sanity. Does that make me a bad person?

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It got me thinking about vengeance movies with female heroines, which are becoming a little more common. I am not talking about movies like Alien, Silence of the Lambs or Halloween. In these films the woman is terrorized but prevails in the end. Their actions are all about survival. I am talking about movies where survival is not the issue, where the woman goes above and beyond protecting herself and is no longer in any danger. She is driven to violence by a single act, and then seems powerless to stop herself. Jodi Foster describes what happens to her character in The Brave One, "She fell down a rabbit hole."

Some people might consider Thelma and Louise a vengeance movie. But it is more of a road movie. If they had gone on a killing spree, then it would qualify. They only did what they needed to do to survive. Some people also might include Fatal Attraction in this genre, but there is no identification with Glenn Close. She is the antagonist, whereas in most revenge flicks, the seeker of vengeance is the protagonist, if not an out and out hero. There are a few movies that tread the line, where the women turn the tables and become the attacker - Reese Witherspoon's amazing white trash Little Red Riding Hood in Freeway, comes to mind.

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I am talking about movies where women go on a Deathwish-like rampage. Carrie, which came out in 1976 is perhaps one of the front-runners in the genre, folowed soon after by Ms 45, a short B-move that gained a cult following in the 80s. Ms 45 followed the story of a deaf woman who fights back against her rapist, then goes on a wild Halloween shooting spree through the town wearing a cool silver wig. Of course, the ultimate female revenge flick was probably Kill Bill.

When I first heard about the Japanese vengeance flick Audition, I was horrified. I am not a fan of torture. I was even more horrified to discover my most innocent, pacifistic girlfriend loved that movie. It did not seem to be in her nature. But as I watched Hard Candy, and realized I was actually starting to feel empowered, I understood where she was coming from.

I have a long queue waiting for me on Netflix now: Diabolique, Extremities, The Big Snatch, Steel and Lace, I Spit on your Grave, and War Cat.

After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.