Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Connoisseurs of grindhouse will appreciate it for what it is."

A post-Apocalyptic hellhole, Mad Max-style. A kiosk, way out in the desert, selling meat of dubious origin. A black-clad woman with a bad attitude. This is a world in which all traces of civilisation have vanished but numerous weapons, strappy lingerie and Rosetta Stone cassette tapes have still somehow survived. It's the setting for a tale of bloody revenge, and whilst the result cannot be described as a quality piece of cinema, connoisseurs of grindhouse will appreciate it for what it is.

That black-clad woman is Tisha (Nayla Churruarin), and she has a secret, a horror buried deep in her past. We get a fleeting glimpse of it at the start, in footage too cleverly shot and edited for the messiness of what comes afterwards to be reckoned accidental. She's looking for someone, and the man at the meat kiosk might be able to help. She's a professional assassin, but when she confirms the target for her latest mission, she says she'll happily do this one for free.

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Scavenger keeps it simple. No effort is made to explain how the world came to this. We're all familiar enough with such settings and we know the rules. Heavily modded vehicles skim across the sand to shanty towns and patched-together ruins. A significant number of the people we see have visible mutations (again, the quality of the prosthetics belies the cheap n' cheerful look). In a dingy bar, leather-clad men growl at one another and half-heartedly ogle ageing, unhealthy-looking women who perform equally half-hearted burlesque. Then there's Luna, like one of those flowers that blooms in the desert just once in a century, looking far too exotic yet a natural part of this landscape. Tisha looks at her with as much positive interest as she shows in anything - which is to say, not much, since she's going for that whole taciturn masculinity discount Marlon Brando thing - but we get the point. Still, there are a couple of twists and a whole lot of suffering before the end.

Low on other resources, like its characters, Scavenger compensates by upping the gore count. There's a considerable amount of violence (including implied sexual violence) with a seasoning of macho posturing and general purpose incoherent shouting. Directors Eric Fleitas and Luciana Garraza play around with chronology a little and use a lot of blurring and fast-cutting to imply shifts in perception, essentially making Tisha an unreliable narrator. In terms of the structure of the story, this is a bit hit and miss, but it adds visual interest and it's perfectly suited to the genre aesthetic.

A brutal revenge yarn with heroic undercurrents, this plays out like some futuristic ballad to be sung in lonely shacks by grizzled cannibals to their three-eyed grandchildren. If you can picture yourself in that timeline, it might be for you.

Reviewed on: 04 May 2021
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Scavenger packshot
In a post-apocalyptic future, a woman murders others for their organs so she can afford to find the brutal cartel that murdered her family and wreak an explosive revenge.
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Director: Luciana Garraza, Eric Fleitas.

Writer: Sheila Fentana, Eric Fleitas, Luciana Garraza

Starring: Nayla Churruarin, Sofia Lanaro, Gonzalo Tolosa, Tisso Solis Vargas

Year: 2019

Runtime: 74 minutes

Country: Argentina


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