A deaf girl is brutalized by a murderous gang who are then hunted by her when the bloodthirsty spirit of an Apache warrior inhabits her lifeless body.
I haven’t been floored by a film in quite some time. It’s even more amazing to me since it was the first film I’ve watched in 2014 and I have to say this New Year is off to a hell of a start. The film in questions is an indie supernatural action/horror hybrid called SAVAGED. It’s no secret writer/director Michael S. Ojeda drew inspiration from THE CROW but he infuses his story with heavy doses of Native American mysticism and his lead is a deaf woman. This film could have easily fell into exploitation territory or ended up being just another rape/revenge film but SAVAGED is a rare gem that seems to just do everything right.
Zoe (Amanda Adrienne) is a young deaf woman who has just inherited a beautiful GTO from her father after his passing. She’s ready to begin the next chapter of her life with fiancée Dane (Marc Anthony Samuel). She says goodbye to her sister and hops into the GTO to drive through the New Mexico dessert to get to her love. She seems to be having the time of her life when everything suddenly falls apart.
Her good natured heart forces her to try and save the life of a Native American man who is being chased by a lynch mob. The encounter quickly turns bloody when the man is murdered and the gang’s leader Trey (Rodney Rowland) decides to take Zoe with them. She is brutalized and raped but she never loses hope and finds a way to escape. Second in command West (Tom Ardavany) wastes no time stopping her once and for all. Buried in a shallow grave, barely clinging to life, a Native American witch doctor finds and nurses her as best he can before performing a ritual to try and save her life. Instead, he awakens an angry spirit who wants revenge, much in the same way Zoe does, and the journey they take is a dark and bloody one.
From the opening frame to the final credit role, every single moment of SAVAGED is needed to properly tell the story. No time is wasted and Michael Ojeda masterfully tells his story on a tiny budget, even though you could never tell watching it. He also served as the director of photography and did most of the visual effects so if the film failed, it would all fall on his shoulders. Thankfully, he blows us away with his vision and storytelling skills. Though the film is a dark tale, much of the cinematography is rather beautiful. The shots sort of just flow together and each one builds into the next.
Amanda Adrienne is a revelation! Since her character is deaf, much of how she communicates is with facial expressions but it’s her eyes that will speak to the audience. The character’s pain, anger, frustration, and rage are all present in those eyes and they will burn holes into you.
This is her first lead role and she has no trouble carrying the weight on her shoulders and delivering a memorable and powerful performance. Each and every actor in the film knows their place and what their function should be and gives every ounce of themselves for the picture. A few other stand- outs are Rodney Rowland, Tom Ardavany, and Marc Anthony Samuel. Samuel delivers some strong emotional moments and the final moments are truly heartbreaking.
SAVAGED never skimps on the action which isn’t for the squeamish. I never squirm or cringe but there are a few moments in the picture that caused me to do so. I could talk on and on about how much I loved this film but then I would start to get into spoilers and the less you know the better. I’ve been anticipating this one for months and it far exceeded all expectations. SAVAGED is brutal, exciting, and it will break your heart. With brilliant filmmaking and amazing performances, this film is destined to become a classic. ***** (out of 5)