US (dir. Steven R. Monroe)
Cast: Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Andrew Howard, Daniel Franzese, Jeff Branson, Sarah Butler, Tracey Walter
Synopsis: An unrated remake based on Meir Zarchi’s controversial 1978 cult classic horror film “Day of the Woman”. Retells the horrific tale of a writer who is brutalized during her cabin retreat, and seeks revenge on her attackers, who left her for dead.
Review: In a Q&A with director Stephen Monroe at the Toronto After Dark Film Fest, Monroe mentioned that his rationale for taking on the remake of “I Spit on Your Grave” was due in part to his theory that if he hadn’t remade it, someone else would have. Now while I have to admit, justifying the remake of a classic horror film by implying that if you hadn’t done it yourself someone else would have, isn’t really the best way to show you had the best intentions at heart when remaking the film, but at least he was being honest. With the utterly shit remakes Michael Bay and others have been cranking out in the past few years (I don’t even have to mention which, but the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a sufficient enough example) it’s refreshing to see someone with a genuine interest in a classic film giving it a loving boost instead of just someone who is only in it for a quick buck (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*).
Horror movies of the rape revenge sub-genre are, as the name would imply, more or less divided into two parts: the raping and the revenging. In all honesty, I would love to see a rape revenge flick where both the raping and the revenging were equally brutal and equally intense, however this usually isn’t the case. In 1972’s “The Last House on the Left”, the rape scene was more sadistic than the actual revenge. In both 2008’s “Wicked Lake” and 2009’s “The Last House on the Left”, the revenges were more violent and gory than the actual rape scenes. And in 2010’s “I Spit on Your Grave”, the revenge easily tops the rape. So it would appear as though 21st century rape revenge films are more preoccupied with the execution of the perfect revenge than ever before.
As sick as it sounds, I was really expecting a more gruesome, more graphic rape scene in the “I Spit on Your Grave” remake. Whenever I’d hear about the original film, it was always in the context of the rape scene being so violent and difficult to watch. With the remake, the rape scene is still pretty brutal, but it’s not a lot more graphic than what we see in the “The Last House on the Left” remake. The revenge sequence becomes way more brutal than the rape sequence, and that’s all fine and good by me – but I was really thinking the rape would be nastier than it was.
This is not a particularly smart film. The main girl (Jennifer) basically dispatches her rapists as gruesomely as possible, but not in a “Saw” way or in any way that you would really think is unexpected. She drops a few well-timed one-liners that were the same one-liners used on her during her rape, but that’s pretty much all the cleverness you will get. The castration torture scene was pretty easy to predict; granted she takes it up a few notches, but it’s still something fairly easy to see coming. There’s also a scene where she burns one of the attackers with lye, something you also might see coming if you are quick to catch one of the first scenes where Jennifer stumbles on an abandoned cottage conveniently stocked with industrial grade lye.
I didn’t much like the fact that we know next to nothing about Jennifer other than she’s a writer who needs some peace and quiet to write a book about her father’s death (?), that she’s from the city and likes to drink and smoke pot and that she’s a pretty fantastic klutz (she manages to spill gas, spill wine, drop her cell into the toilet etc.). Maybe some more of a back-story would be in order? I found it difficult to feel any sympathy for her because, hell, for all I know, she is just a spoiled, rich “city bitch” as her attackers would describe her, so being sympathetic to her situation was a bit of a stretch. Sure I feel bad because she is a woman like myself, but with little more than a name, an occupation, and a pretty face, there’s not much depth to this character – and that’s a shame.
Surprisingly, the cinematography is one of the best things about “I Spit on Your Grave” (who would have thought, right?). There are some really well done shots of the forest and Jennifer’s post-rape walk through the woods. A lot of it looks like it was inspired by the post-rape scenes from the “The Last House on the Left” remake, but I think that, for the most part, the look and feel of these scenes are entirely original.
Despite being based on a controversial (for its time) and violent/graphic film, the “I Spit on Your Grave” remake hardly captures that controversial feel from the original. I guess in 2010 this sort of thing isn’t nearly as nasty as it was once perceived to be. Plus the revenge is just so… expected this time around, which is what I think contributed to the controversy inherent in the original film. In the era of the original, I doubt audiences could fathom a raped, nearly murdered woman exacting such a violent revenge. In 2010, this revenge is pretty much expected, and the fact that the avenger is female and the attackers male doesn’t really have the same impact as it might have in the late 1970s. So really, in this remake, all the “controversy” is no longer there, and the only thing it has to play with to make it stand above other movies in the rape-revenge sub-genre is more violence and gore. Is this hardcore violence and gore achieved? I’d say almost. There are certainly two scenes that immediately come to mind: one being the castration and the other being the shotgun-through-the-ass scene, but other than that there isn’t really too much to write home about. Plus, Jennifer offs her attackers at an incredibly fast pace; she basically goes at the rate of two men at a time and one scene even has her killing off two at the same time (two birds, one stone, so to speak). Her rape and her revenge are equal in length, though not in intensity (like I said, the revenge is more graphic than the rape, even in what was left unseen). There’s a gap between the two acts which sort of drags on, and we are left with no information as to what Jennifer was planning during this time period, how long she was missing, or why no one ever bothered looking for her. This again contributes to our lack of understanding who Jennifer is, and the audience’s difficulty in developing sympathy for her.
Even the rapists have little background or character development. They are the most stereotypical, dumb ass, backwater rednecks imaginable, but the fact that the ring leader is hottie soap star Jeff Branson makes them pretty easy on the eyes. They are like the greatest hits of rednecks too. You have the fat one, the mentally disabled one, the mean ringleader, the stupid one, and the corrupt cop. The cop is a total asshole, and we get to know a lot more about him than we do any of the other rednecks, but it’s only due to the fact that he has a pregnant wife and little girl at home that we are truly sickened by him. He reminded me a lot of Sheriff Hoyt from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake, but I still think Hoyt keeps the bar high on the corrupt cop scale.
Of course, when the revenge goes down, the rednecks really get what’s coming. Every scene where Jennifer kills off one of the lowlifes who raped her is a stand up and cheer moment, although she doesn’t really stick around to watch any of them die. Unfortunately, none of the men really beg for their lives or apologize (except the mentally disabled redneck, who really didn’t know any better and was forced into the situation in the first place) so the question remains whether Jennifer truly gets the rapists to feel any remorse or if she even cares if they do in the first place (I suspect the latter is true).
While it’s a good film, it’s not a necessary remake (true for almost all remakes). If it wasn’t broke in the first place, why fix it? Plus, it’s been over 30 years since the original shocked audiences, a lot has changed since then and it’s entirely conceivable for a woman to exact a bloody revenge. The concept of a woman being raped and going on an all out revenge is hardly a far stretch, so while the shock value is absent, gore hounds will relish in the no holds barred revenge which is almost as graphic and nasty as you may already have predicted.