Tomboys (2009) is a rape revenge film, featuring five women taking vengeance upon the men who have abused them. The script by Nathan Hill, Stuart Van Eysden and Fabian Lapham, which owes a lot to the movie making of 1970s, is basically a low-budget, claustrophobic one room drama where all that’s needed is a bunch of people with a plan.
We open with two women dragging a body into a barn; it could be in New Zealand or Australia based on the accents. They hoist the guy up on a block and tackle and leave him hanging there.
The women are Kat (Candice Day) and Naomi (Naomi Davis). And the man is a rapist who’s been marauding their country town since who knows when. This trio is joined by Emily (Sash Milne), Imogen (Allie Hall), and Crystal (Sarah Hill).
But this is not a well executed plan. The first issue is that the farmhouse is owned by Naomi. The second, as Malcolm Reynolds complained of Jayne Cobb in Serenity (2005), they’re all using their own names. But this early in the film, it could just be that the women aren’t planning on letting the guy see the light of day.
Kat is the most aggressive, and leads the abuse of the man. And when she cuts off his genitalia with a newly sharpened knife, there’s much more at stake than before. Especially when he appears to die.
The women spend a lot of time trying to psych themselves up to do the unthinkable, and everyone but Imogen ends up with literal blood on their hands. Imogen is the weak link in the affair, the only person in the room who makes objections. It’s interesting that Kat and the others pressure her to conform to their wishes which is arguably at the low end of the coercion they’ve come here to avenge. And when Imogen escapes, the vague plan for revenge begins to unravel.
Director Nathan Hill’s choice to shoot in colour seems a missed opportunity, as it could be argued straight monochrome would have evoked an even darker tone. In addition the choice to freeze-frame on each woman and caption their names reminds one of Snatch (2000) where there was a necessity to reinforce names as the action took place in London amongst gangsters with funny names, and The Program (2015) where the choice seemed merely stylistic and pulled one out of the story. And speaking of style, there’s a hint of Brian May in the soundtrack by Asher Pope, especially in the use of horns to evoke drama.
All in all, if revenge horror is your thing, then this is as valid an entry in the genre as any of the classics from the 70’s and 80’s. The budget has been used effectively and the characters actions are understandable given their abuse.