Anyone expecting revealing anecdotes from Deborah Twiss and Todd Morris, the makers of A Gun for Jennifer who were flown out as guests of the festival to introduce their film, would have been disappointed. The pair treated the audience to one of the shortest, most cursory of opening speeches ever imparted before a premiere screening.
It might have been better not to let this splatter thriller speak for itself. The film follows a vigilante group of women who work in a go-go bar and prowl New York targeting, castrating and annihilating rapists. But this chop-shop of home-made justice is more interesting when you know that the tale was spawned by star, scriptwriter and producer Deborah Twiss, herself a former go-go dancer. Her revenge fantasy first took shape, according to the programme, “during a particularly bad night, when the customers were being spectacularly cruel and vulgar”.
Their punishment? An emasculating script in which deserving males are dished out deaths spectacularly cruel and vulgar. Twiss delves into violation retribution, but these issues are brought to the screen in a simplistic way. Rapists deserve to have their penises chopped off and their brains splattered. It’s that reductive. Or is it?
The film no doubt generated more than one debate about rape after its screening. Many will find the film’s subject matter controversial and confrontational. It is certainly hard-hitting. Others may get a kick out of seeing a bunch of hard-assed women in action – a gender reversal of the heroic vigilante figure so popular in westerns. If you can get past their bent for exposing viscera and jellied cerebral pulp, that is. I found the violence and the women so extremist that they both became slightly ludicrous in the end.
Why A Gun for Jennifer? Despite its decidely B-grade flavour, this is no playful Tarantinoesque homage to comic violence. It’s a visceral, very graphic trip, rendered in gory, brain-splattering detail. One scene features a full-scale sado-masochistic skin excision revealing the chest cavity below the epidermis. Excellent special effects make-up.
In other parts it’s simply bad. Marred by wooden acting and strained dialogue, the script has enough holes in it to defy plausibility. Gritty and rather appealing in its rawness, A Gun for Jennifer is interesting for its odd mix of strengths and pitfalls.