Scorned (2013)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2014-02-05 05:17

Written by: Mark Jones and Sadie Katz
Directed by: Mark Jones
Starring: AnnaLynne McCord, Billy Zane, and Viva Bianca

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned..."

Scorned is the latest entry in the vengeful woman canon, a sub-genre that’s often concerned with exploring and subverting typical sexual dynamics. Sometimes, they come from a well-intentioned place, no matter how exploitative they might be (your Ms. 45s, Thrillers, and I Spit on Your Graves hail from here); sometimes, they’re just operating under the assumption that some women are clingy psychopaths. Scorned is definitely one of the latter and doesn’t have much pretense of illuminating anything in the battle of the sexes—it’s just a wild, bloody riff on your standard issue Lifetime Movie, only it hails from an even more simplistic and misguided place where torturing your boyfriend is tantamount to empowerment.

Never mind the fact that the movie essentially asks you to gander and gaze at this crazy broad by the name of Sadie (AnnaLynne McCord), a twenty-something wannabe southern belle who’s convinced she’s found her true love in Kevin (Billy Zane). When her beau takes her off for a weekend retreat, she’s sure he’s going to pop the big question and put her onto the path of eternal marital bliss. These plans take a sharp detour after she discovers some salacious text messages between Kevin and her best friend, Jen (Viva Bianca). Rather than ditch her weekend plans and leave in a huff, she drugs her boyfriend and ties him up before inviting an unsuspecting Jen to join them for their romp.

She then proceeds to torture them both over the next hour, a proposition that would be more unsavory if the film weren’t obviously as unhinged as its protagonist. Announcing itself as a lark right out of the gate, it presents the sexually frank text conversations between Kevin and Jen, so the trashy soap opera vibe is rather immediate. I suppose this is what happens when this set is left to its own devices without settling its issues on Springer. Obviously, there’s a train-wreck quality to it all, and it actively invites you to cringe right along with every ludicrous development, whether it’s Sadie’s tortured, hydrophobic past or a prisoner’s convenient escape from a local prison (a subplot whose endgame is so obvious, even as the convict wanders in and out of the movie as a reminder that, you know, he’s there).

If there’s any doubt that the film isn’t a total goof, it’s completely removed with a shot of the prisoner ambling down the road in the black of night, thumbing for a ride with the complete assumption that his facial tattoos won’t be at all off-putting to a bunch of motorists who have been alerted of a prison break. Whether I was meant to or not, I howled at this and many other events in Scorned, a movie that proceeds in a playful manner. It seems to openly invite your (ahem) scorn when Sadie threatens microwave Jen’s poor dog, only it never goes that dark but instead resorts to other stock torture implements, such as crushing hands in vices and employing a hammer for some makeshift dental work. You’re left cringing, of course, but also laughing at how absurd it all is, particularly when it looks like divine intervention is assisting Sadie in her revenge plot.

It’s sort of a throwaway moment that points at what could have been a juicier angle if Scorned had any aspirations beyond its platinum-blonde levels of shallowness. You see, Sadie fancies herself a good, Christian girl who believes in doing right by others, an ethos that’s obviously at odds with her penchant for doling out Old Testament flavored vengeance. That obvious disconnect is about as far as the film’s satirical slant goes, and it ultimately only highlights just how fucking nuts Sadie is—not that it needs much highlighting since that’s the refrain from the outset. Considering that the tableau of characters ranges from “vapid” to “sleazebag” to “deus ex machina,” it’s not surprising that Sadie is the most forceful and captivating personality by default.

Still, it’s tough to tell just where the film comes down on her. At times, you feel as though you’re laughing at her; at others, with her. At all times, though, she feels like an unseemly, cartoonish portrayal of the scorned woman motif. It’s tough to drum up any sympathy for her since she’s engineered to be nothing more than an estrogen-fuelled revenge factory, complete with a traumatic past and an ingrained clinginess. Had the film ended differently, it might be easier to read Scorned as a critique of this particular caricature; however, that seems to be the last thing on its mind, what with all of the sledgehammering and the stabbing and the eventual reinforcement of the manipulative shrew stereotype. If nothing else, McCord owns the hell out of a mostly unpleasant role and has fun with it; after playing a different, more sympathetic weirdo in Excision, she relishes a role that perhaps hits closer to home for the Georgia native. Sadie is authentic white trash, complete with a southern-fried drawl and her life goal to get hitched carries a distinct sort of ennui that only makes the character even more despicable.

That Scorned arrives courtesy of the director of Leprechaun should further hint at how glib it is. An unabashed exercise in dumb violence and even dumber characters, it’s also about as shallow as its protagonist. Like Sadie, it aims to assault its viewers while also cozying up to them and sweet-talking them a little bit with its goofy platitudes and twisty plot diversions. It doesn’t exactly work, but it’s made momentarily compelling by McCord, whose future is bright. I’m not as optimistic about Scorned; while Anchor Bay has outfitted it with a sleek presentation, its Blu-ray is devoid of special features, which perhaps captures just what an afterthought this film is. In this particular sub-genre, it’s total filler that approaches becoming a parody of Lifetime Movies—though I’m guessing even one of those wouldn’t criminally waste a scummy turn by Billy Zane. Rent it!

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