Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Spit On Your Day of the Remake

I will not begin this post on 2010’s I Spit On Your Grave with yet another disclaimer for how I wish uppity genre fans would drop the ‘all remakes suck!’ mantra with the same fervor I feel for wanting studios to stop remaking movies. It’s a conundrum. We deal with it. There are highs and lows, but we as film lovers should always maintain open minds.
But in case this is misunderstood, I do indeed wish a plague on you, It’s Alive 2009.
Moving on...
Quick Plot: Jennifer HIll is a ridiculously successful-for-her-can’t-rent-a-car-yet age novelist heading to a rented home in the boonies to work on her next book, jog, and drink case after case of red wine. Minus the jogging, it actually sounds like a dream vacation to my ears but folks don’t normally spit on the graves of happy holidayers.

During a routine fill-up at the local gas station where the only people in town hang out, Jennifer meets a few ragged townies with poor hygiene and pickup lines but an impressive ability to make the city girl feel really uncomfortable. Later, Jennifer encounters the town town idiot/plumber named Matthew whose skills under the toilet earn him a kiss and the testosterone-heavy party plans of his pals.

For the most part thus far, I Spit On Your Grave is closely following the trajectory laid down 32 years earlier, although the men are cast as would-be rapists almost immediately in contrast to the original, which first made them almost flirty. Moving on, Steven Monroe’s new film treats the abuse of Jennifer in a very different manner. Like the original, the quartet of grimy fellas show up with one thing on their collective mind, but where Meir Zarchi followed one rape with another--each a symbol of the competitive men topping one another with their violence--Monroe’s instead focuses on how the guys humiliate the richer and more successful Jennifer. We certainly understand the original’s ringleader as a man frustrated with and intimidated by Jennifer’s position for both economical and gender reasons, and unfortunately, some of that is missed here. What the men put our victim through is truly wrong, but their motives seem far less complicated (though in fairness, only the original’s Johnny seemed to have any real depth).

But look at us, examining the timely undertones of grindhouse when there are bear traps, acid baths, and men getting their eyes pecked out by crows to talk about! Consider the pretension raped out of this review.
Because really, I Spit On Your Grave is not a serious film. It starts out that way, with glossy-grainy Last House on the Left-like style carving out a tragedy and trying with solemn earnestness to make us care. Once Jennifer falls into a brown groggy lake, I Spit On Your Grave suddenly transforms into an over-the-top-torture porn pop tart bursting with gigglesome Jigsaw-like murder traps only a lifelong member of the Girl Scouts could even dream of rigging. 

I know it sounds awful. Or awesome. It’s sort of both.
See, after the rape, I Spit On Your Grave is, in an odd way, not really Jennifer’s story. We don’t see her recover or plot her revenge as Monroe instead focuses on the guilty parties slowly realizing she survived. It definitely hurts the film, as any of Jennifer’s possible depth is quashed once she becomes a near-silent, almost J-horror-esque ghostess who can’t be foiled. It’s pretty ridiculous, as are the kills. Seriously, I’m talking sticking-a-shotgun-in-our-anus ridiculous. Which...hey, sometimes has its place.

High Points
Not to say that the actual rape was, you know, good or anything, but the leadup to Jennifer’s humiliation is actually quite effective in being as mean as the original without any sugar coating
Low Points
Sarah Butler isn’t necessarily bad as Jennifer, but it’s really impossible to buy her as a successful independent novelist when she should still be getting carded to buy cigarettes.

Lessons Learned
Good whiskey is a treat generally reserved for baptisms, weddings, and funerals
Like soon-to-be rape victims, overweight rural fourth wheels may experience the unfortunate act of having lots of things stuffed inside their mouths (including, but not limited to, guns, video tapes, and rats)
A cell phone’s place is never in the bathroom. Really people, you’re in a horror movie set in the 21st century. Don’t give the Laws of Getting Rid of Phones any leeway
A lot of film folk have trashed I Spit On Your Grave as Just Another Awful Remake. I am not one of them. It’s a flawed film, a disjointed slight mess that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. At the same time, it approaches the material with an interesting balance of faithfulness and experimentation, keeping the storyline so close to its predecessor but trying new things with how it all unfolds. Those who despise gruesome Saw-ish violence should probably stay away, but the curious might get something out of the film. It’s not actually good, but as a ‘fan’ of the original, I found the remake to be worth a tepid watch. 


  1. Interesting review. I have been curious about the movie, though I've not worked up the nerve to see it at this point. I wasn't a fan of the original. I'm still sort of on the fence about the remake.

  2. Thanks Mr.! I don't know that I would recommend it to you, since I think the most open audience to it are those who want to see how it compares to the original. Then again, if you're up for some shotgun-ass shots, this is the one!

  3. Shotgun anal sex? Is this a Sandy Bullock sex tape?! Gives a whole new meaning to calling shotgun!

    I'd still like to check this one out, despite your review not being the most glowing of one. I love the original film for what it was, and I find these exploitation updates to be interesting as far as seeing that type of film through a modern lens.

  4. I'm not opposed to checking out this film. At this point, I feel the same way about remakes. But the Elm St one is still and always will be an abomination!

  5. As an update, it's pretty fascinating Matt. Apparently our generation is all about elaborate death traps (lessons learned, of course, from Sandy Bullock's private collection).

    I'd be curious for your thoughts Ashlee, even if you are forever wrong about the NoES remake!

  6. Interesting indeed. It does sound like there is enough here to warrant a viewing. OK, you've convinced me :)

  7. You might hate it, but I think it's interesting enough to deserve a watch to see.

  8. I saw the original when I was a young lad - all I remember from it are the rape and shower scenes... oh, and the canoe scene. Why do I get the feeling that's pretty much all of the film?

    Anyway, as wrong as it sounds I feel I need to rewatch the original some time. Might do that before I give the remake a go.

  9. Let's see, rape, shower, canoe, castration. Don't forget the castration! Now you HAVE to rewatch the film for that alone!

  10. I recently watched and review the original. I had thought about seeing this remake first, because I had heard some positive things about it, but held off so I could contrast and compare. Reading this review, I'm less in a hurry to even bother.

  11. I still recommend it out of curiosity, but you might be better off waiting a bit so you're not completely enslaved to comparing and contrasting. I know that often kills a remake or even adaptation for me.

  12. Wasn't the castration scene in the shower scene? I knew someone got his bits chopped off somewhere. The shower (or was it bathtub?) is as good a place as any to do it.

  13. Bathtub. It's so good he doesn't seem to notice for the first 10 seconds that, you know, his penis has been cut off.