I can't lie. As a survivor of sexual assault myself, I've watched my share of rape-revenge horror/thrillers over the years. In most cases, they fall woefully short in justifying their existence precisely because they perpetuate the abuse rather than preventing it and they end up exploiting victims of sexual violence.
In recent years, we've started experience a bit of a change with such films as Coralie Fargeat's Revenge and others. Writer/director Lucía Forner Segarra packs an awful lot into her 19-minute short Dana, but by the end has created one of the sub-genre's most effective and meaningful films.
Dana (Thais Blume) survives a brutal attempt at sexual assault only to discover that her attacker, whom she kills, had only recently been released and had a known history of 59 prior rapes.
Rather than simply diving directly into Dana's transformation into a vigilante, Segarra presents a vivid and realistic picture of what can best be described as the post-traumatic symptoms that often accompany such an experience. In other words, Dana may become bent on vigilante justice but she is still a human being who seemingly struggles with the idea that her actions have become the only way that justice will actually be served.
Refreshingly, there's never really a moment when it feels like Dana is being exploited for the film. While Segarra is most certainly uncompromising here, it's never at the expense of Dana. There's a darkly humorous thread that runs throughout Dana's just shy of 19-minute running time, though it's more of the gallows sense of humor one experiences at times simply to survive. If you've ever worked in an emergency room, and I have, then you understand it because you simply face things that most human beings will never face.
For survivors of rape, it's often the same. It's not so much laughing at or laughing with. It's laughing to survive.
The story that unfolds in Dana is simple yet brilliant. Thais Blume brings it all beautifully to life, from the opening moments of surviving sexual assault to attempting to do something resembling healing to her remarkable transformation into a conflicted vigilante. Blume's is most certainly a remarkable performance.
Lensing by Claudia Rodriguez is vividly realized yet, once again, never re-victimizes the victim. Rodriguez's lens companions rather than gawks and never gives the power away to the perpetrators.
Original music by Joan Vila is poignant and emotionally resonant without ever overwhelming the film.
While the rape-revenge thriller is most certainly not for everyone, for those who resonate with its message Dana serves as a powerful example of how the sub-genre can tell a powerful, meaningful story that is honest, authentic, and I'd dare say even a bit cathartic. Dana is a film that will stay with you long after the closing credits have rolled.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic