Friday, March 4, 2011

I Spit on your Rape Revenge Remakes

D. Steven Monroe
Anchor Bay Ent.

It is certainly arguable if the world even needed a remake of Meir Zarchi’s brutal exploitation classic I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and really any movie that tried to update it was not going to live up to the big shoes of the original. That film is one that has for years split horror and sleaze films fans to almost violent extremes. In one camp you have those who feel the original movie is nothing but misogynist, hateful garbage. A film that brutalizes women for the enjoyment of a rag tag crowd of impotent men who get off on seeing females dis-empowered and sexually abused for lengthy amounts of time. On the other side is the group who see the film as a superior piece of exploitation cinema, that attacks the material with an almost feminist agenda. A work of primal rage, that contains a surprising amount of quiet beauty and fury. The controversy of Siskel and Ebert reviewing the movie has become stuff of film criticism legend and even a lot of genre critics have spent years poo pooing the film as a way to not have to take a stand on it.

"The remake will be remembered for the subtle use of phallic imagery"

But with the major success of so many remakes it was only a matter of time. When something like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT has a major Hollywood remake that lands in theaters it is only fitting the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE will have one too. So the question remains how do you update one of the seriously most disturbing movies of all time for modern, jaded audiences?

The answer seems to be simply just up the gore to the expected splatterpunk levels and hope for the best. Story wise this is almost exactly the same. Young city girl Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) goes to the woods to write her first book in peace and quiet. Her first interaction along the way is at a redneck gas station where she inadvertently humiliates the group of yokels there when she spurns the advances of the local tough guy when he hits on her. Once settled in she has plumbing issues and the town handicap Matthew (Chad Lindberg) helps her out and develops a crush on her. Soon the town goons and Matthew have crashed her cabin and are abusing her in an attempt to have Matthew lose his manhood.

"A moment clearly echoing the original film. Or the Denmark Classic A Summer Day"

The scene is clearly here driven by class distinction as much as by sexual desire or even violence as the men are consistently driving home the fact that they feel she is looking down on them. The actual humilation scene goes on for quite some time as they scare, here, call her names, read her book out loud and make fun of it and finally force her to fellate a gun and bottle while comparing her to a horse that needs to be tamed. It is a long and unpleasant scene, made worse because knowing the original film, you know this is all leading up to her being brutally raped at any time.

But in a new twist, she gets loose and finds the town Sheriff in the woods hunting. (SPOILER ALERT) who of course knows the boys and once has her back to her cabin starts to arrest her for making false accusations and for having drugs. Then the boys come back and the expected rape begins. Which is not as brutal as the original film. Here only the character of Matthew and the Sheriff are shown fully forcing themselves on Jennifer. The others are shown in kind of a in and out haze as she loses consciousness and the movie fades out. It is actually a far more tasteful choice in direction that was expected given the pedigree of movie being remade. It still follows the same structure, though backwards, as she is here attacks at her home first then in the woods. This time she jumps off a bridge after her attack and the guys loose track of her once she is in the water. Unlike the original where she is left for dead after they believe Matthew has killed her.

"Hill-billy bathub time!"

Here in the remake the movie takes a severe bad turn. Jennifer simply is removed from the narrative for a significant amount of time. The film is supposed to be her story, yet for a good ten minutes or more she is gone from the film as we spend time with the rapists as we know their families, and how they are trying to get away with the crime. What steam the movie has built up to the point, and it isn’t terrible, goes all over the place and becomes an unfocused mess.

Then it tries to become a slasher/stalker picture as she comes back for vengeance, asking the audience to put aside some pretty illogical things, like for example that Jennifer has survived in the woods, injured for over a month on her own. But even more that she is now able to overpower and kill these hulking maniacal men on her own, even in her crazed malnourished state.

The movie really goes limp in the second half as the filmmakers start giving Jennifer goofy catch phrases such as “It’s Date Night!” after she kills her abusers in an attempt to make her really clever and to set her in the pantheon of on screen killers. In an attempt to keep up with the Jones the filmmakers chose to have her slaughter her abusers in complex and painful ways that would be much more at home in one of the SAW films that a simple revenge set up. So one fellow is strung up over a bathtub full of water and lye, and their has his eye-lids pulled open with fish hooks and smeared with fish guts until CGI crows appear and tear out his peepers (seriously, I am not making that up!) and finally one unlucky rapist scum is strung up like a stallion with a metal bridal knocking out his teeth and finally castrated in a nod to the original film. But taken one step further as his removed member is shoved into his broken, bleeding mouth. There is also a shotgun sodomy bit where she viciously fucks one of the slobs in the ass with the barrel of a shotgun while screaming at him about why he violated her. The biggest problem with that scene is that it was done better a couple of years ago in the film CLOSURE with Gillian Anderson, almost down to extremely similar dialogue,

"Just whatever you do, don't stuff a fake severed cock in my mouth. That would be REALLY humiliating..."

The director has stated one of his goals this time around was to “correct” the flaws of the original by not having the Jennifer Character use her sexuality to seduce the villains into her grasp. Such as the scene in the original where she Seduces Matthew before Hanging him. It is the ONE questionable scene in the original that really muddies the moral waters about the intention of the filmmaker. But the director here simply pulls that back entirely too far and almost gets rid of the main character’s point of view altogether. By removing her from the mid section of the film we lose touch with her and lose sympathy. We don’t see what she is going through, her pathos and he need to do these guys in. It simply doesn’t work. I commend him on his attempt to try to make it less sleazy, but at the end of the day he also makes it kind of ridiculous, making the bad guys charactitures in the process (not that the original isn’t guilty of that either). The main villain's speech about “a man being just a man” from the original film is also absent here, which was another focal point.

So what you are left with is a rather unfocused modern revenge film, with a few well done suspenseful moments, some heavy gore, and not a lot else making it worth the time. It certainly is not the worst of the remakes I’ve seen, but redundant keeps popping into my mind as a word to describe the experience.

Review © Andy Copp

Siskel and Ebert Go Off about Women In Danger IN Horror Films


  1. "Soon the town goons and Matthew have crashed her cabin and are abusing her in an attempt to have Matthew lose his manhood."

    Freudian slip? :)

  2. More just my poor grasp of the English language...