Because pain often fuels creativity, one of the unintentionally positive consequences of the Trump administration’s weaponization of intolerance, impropriety and disinformation is that it has provided plenty of fodder for provocative, sociopolitically inclined genre cinema, like the Purge franchise. In particular, the current culture of xenophobia has proven to be a fruitful subject for fright films, from Culture Shock (part of Hulu’s Into the Dark series) to lesser-known, micro-budget fare like President Evil, Savageland and now Fatima’s Revenge, which puts an African spin on Trump’s wall-building, anti-immigrant bigotry.
This brief (78 minutes, including credits and an oddly placed music video) feature began as an even shorter (25-minute) film, entitled Fatima, about an undocumented single mother (Korto Davis) from Liberia living in the U.S. who takes a job as a home attendant for a wheelchair-bound elderly vet who turns out to be a raging, MAGA hat-wearing racist. The feature-length version takes the drama of that short and infuses it with a dose of horror by making the old man a serial killing sadist (but still a Trump supporter, natch) who kidnaps and tortures Fatima, thus setting up the titular “revenge.” It’s actually less horror and more exploitation thriller — like an intergender, international, intergenerational Fight for Your Life.
Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as interesting nor as competent as that sleazy cult classic. Its budgetary constraints are apparent throughout the rough-around-the-edges final product, from the wonky, unfocused camerawork (although director Gerald Barclay helmed some noteworthy ‘90s hip-hop videos from the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan and the No Limit crew) to the stilted dialogue and uneven acting — granted, it does manage to reel in veteran character actor Clifton Powell for a small supporting role.
There’s no doubt that Fatima’s Revenge touches a nerve with hot-button subject matter like illegal immigration, racism, police brutality, yellow journalism, hyper-patriotism and the Black Lives Matter movement, but it’s so unsubtle, it’s hard to take seriously. Basically all of the white characters are one-note, racist caricatures who casually drop phrases like “you people” and “your kind.” One white policeman even spews racist rhetoric at his workplace in a room full of black people, including three black cops and a black defense attorney: “She killed an American in his own country, AND A WHITE MAN AT THAT!…I better not catch that immigrant in the streets!”
The cartoonish nature of the white characters aside, the crazy old man, Mr. Watson (Joel Rogers), does actually make for an intriguing baddie, with his MAGA hat and get-off-my-lawn villainy, even if it’s hard to buy that two able-bodied, 30-something women (Fatima and her coworker) can’t overpower a 70-something man. He would probably feel more at home in a campier film, one that still touches upon the serious topics this one does but in a more lighthearted manner that plays up the absurdity of the reality in which we live.
Despite its shortcomings, Fatima’s Revenge has something to say that’s worth committing to film — which is more than can be said about a lot of micro-budget efforts. However, it needs more experienced hands to push it to its full potential. Just be prepared for Trump to take credit for it all.