Today I watched Danny Steinmann’s Savage Streets (1984)
A gang known as The Scars are out having a night on the town when they almost run over a deaf-mute girl. Her sister, Brenda played by Linda Blair, is none too impressed and later in the night takes up the opportunity to steal their car and go for a joy ride with her girlfriends, leaving the car filled with their trash. The Scars are none to happy about this and when they visit the town’s high school to collect some drug money from one of their pushers, they see Brenda’s sister and they step up the aggression by more than a few notches by assaulting and gang raping her in the girl’s bathroom. No one knows it was The Scars who committed this atrocious act and the girls have another run in with them at a club where they molest one of the friends who cuts the leader’s cheek with a knife. Once again they go many steps too far and throw her off a bridge, killing her and her unborn child. But now one of the gang has had enough and inadvertently lets Brenda know about The Scars. Now she is on the road to revenge, armed with bear traps, a crossbow, and a killer’s instinct, nothing is going to stand in her way.
This technically falls under the controversial umbrella of a rape-revenge film, though in most examples of the genre it is the protagonist who is raped. So yeah, this is some heavy content put into the context of a vigilante action movie, an exploitation film through and through. But in my opinion exploitation films get a bit of a bad rap, giving this movie a proper analysis and it appears more feminist to me than anything else. For one Brenda and her girlfriends are very sexual characters that are in control of their sexuality, they talk raunchy, ogle boys, and express themselves fearlessly. In terms of the rape content, it represents that women exist in a rather sexist society dominated by very violent expressions of male masculinity, it is a powerful symbol of the exploitation and destruction of women at the hands of an uncaring patriarchy. Some critics have noted that the revenge of rape revenge films is not equal to the horrors of rape, but that argument relies on saying that rape is worse that a slow torturous death and lets be fair, there is no way anyone can argue either side of that without sounding like a complete asshole, I’ll let you make your own decisions on the matter.
The rest of this film is pure style and attitude. The dialogue is the kind of raunchy and over the top that was later aped by Quentin Tarantino, it may not be realistic but it sure is fun to hear the school principle tell the gang leader to “fuck an iceberg.” Then there are the visuals which a pure Eighties neon and grime, the way it is shot is great too. It is just a smartly shot film, the angles are well chosen and the visual language amps up the intensity of this explosive flick. Then there is the acting, while Linda Blair may have won a Razzie for worst actress, I thought she was amazing in this film, she has a great spunky attitude and delivers the over the top dialogue with an excellent vigilante sneer. Robert Dryer plays the lead villain opposite Blair and is equally her match in terms of psychotic malice, he defines violent a sociopathic masculine sexuality.
While this film is somewhat derivative, most of it’s influences can’t boast the awesome performance of Linda Blair. It is a gritty exploitation revenge flick that hits all the right notes and actually shows a modicum of restraint in comparison to something like I Spit on Your Grave. The action is intense, the raunchy humour comes at no one’s expense and has enough genuine laughs to break up the savagery and boy does it get savage. The climax of this film is pretty much perfect for a film of this type as Brenda becomes a total predator and hunts her prey mercilessly. If you can stomach the content, check this one out, it’s a wild ride. 5/5