I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-02-11 01:50

Written by: Suart Morse (screenplay), Meir Zarchi (1978 screenplay)
Directed by: Steven R. Monroe
Starring: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Rodney Eastman, and Andrew Howard

Reviewed by: Brett G.

ďFuck you!Ē
ďYou already did that. I didn't enjoy it very much. Now it's my turn to fuck you!Ē

If you played word association with the title I Spit on Your Grave, Iím guessing most people would spit out ďsleaze,Ē ďtrash,Ē and derivations thereof in response. However, I happen to side with my tag team partner, Brett H., in thinking that Meir Zarchiís cult exploitation classic is much more of a hoot than anyone is willing to admit. Between the outrageous redneck caricatures and Jenniferís over-the-top revenge, itís really not a movie to be taken as seriously as it has been by so many. It also happens to be a film that Iíve always felt could benefit from another go-round, as its leisurely pacing and mediocre production values make it a chore to wade through at times. So, needless to say, I wasnít exactly losing sleep when the makers behind the 2010 redux announced their intentions to take another crack at it.

Jennifer Hills is an author who is retreating to a quaint countryside to write her next novel. On her drive into town, she encounters some greasy locals at a gas station; after some usual macho banter and some not-so-subtle come-ons, Jennifer leaves to get situated at the house sheís renting. Meanwhile, the leader of our pack of rednecks has been stewing over being resisted by Jennifer, and he insists that heíll have her whether she wants him or not. He and his pack of friends (which also includes a mentally handicapped man) invade her home and rape her; before they can finish the job and kill her, she throws herself into a river. They assume that she likely died anyway (surely the gators got Ďer!), but thatís far from the case when she re-emerges to take her revenge.

The 2010 version of this tale hews pretty closely to the original; the story beats are mostly the same, though there is one effective narrative wrinkle thrown in that separates the two a bit. Obviously, the rape/revenge paradigm is left intact, and itís still the raison díetre, and itís still a nicely exploitative sleaze-fest. I was initially a bit worried that the tone of the film would miss the mark, as the filmís score and somewhat de-saturated photography were setting a dreary vibe; however, my fears were assailed as soon as Jennifer ran into a delightful old hick with a thick southern accent. The rest of the townís citizens follow suit, as, like their counterparts in the original, theyíre just a bunch of rednecks who like to fish and talk about what hunting season it is. While their dialogue doesnít veer all the way into the outrageously silly stuff of the original (like the now-infamous musing on whether city broads have to take a shit like the rest of us), thereís still some fun exchanges and ball-busting between the guys. Metaphorically speaking, of course, as the literal ball-busting comes later on.

Before that, though, the subject of rape penetrates the film. The original is probably most notorious for the long, uncompromising sequences in which Camille Keaton (who also happened to be Zarchiís wife) is raped several times; while many found the film deplorable on the basis of the rape alone, my main contention is that the overly-long, tedious scenes bog the film down, as Iím always left checking my watch and wondering when the guys are finally going to be through (though, to its credit, I suppose it is meant to unnerve and disturb with its uncompromising take). Monroe doesnít make the same mistake in his film; though the scene is still plenty brutal and full of psychological and physical torment, itís reined in a bit, and we focus more on the aftermath. Like Keaton, star Sarah Butler is left to stagger away in the nude, having been completely and utterly devastated; this in and of itself if disturbing enough. This version also has a nice build-up, as the prelude to the home invasion is actually quite suspenseful at times.

Because the rape isnít lingered upon as long, weíre able get to the main event (the revenge part of the rape/revenge equation) more swiftly. Whereas the original makes me think ďget to it already,Ē the 2010 version really had me anticipating Jenniferís return to the picture. We spend a bit more time with her assaulters, who think theyíve gotten away with it all. The ring-leader seemingly has a perfect home life, with a pregnant wife and a smart daughter; meanwhile, the three other goofballs are back to swigging beer and hitting on other women. Only Matthew, the mentally handicapped rapist, feels a twinge of guilt and is actually haunted by visions of Jennifer. Those visions become reality, but not before she decides to play some games with her tormenters first; she turns the tables by playing mind games with them first. When she finally returns, she subjects each of the men to a series of tortures that feel like something out of Saw; itís all pretty over-the-top and very much in the spirit of the signature castration scene from the original. The climactic scene is especially deranged and gives the head rapist a taste of his own rectally-administered medicine.

This take not only fixes some of the pacing issues of the original (though this one could trim some fat, as Iím not sure it needs to be 108 minutes long), but it also mightily improves the production values. While some will argue that all the polish takes away from the raw grit that admittedly worked well for the original, I donít think itís a detriment here, as Monroeís vision is still rather uncompromising. With the exception of some (literally) shaky camera work, his direction still captures all of the necessary brutality. His cast is solid as well; Butler initially exhibits the same dainty, frail quality as Camille Keaton, but sheís more of a show stopper in revenge mode, as she spouts off cruel jokes before doling out punishment. Andrew Howard and his band of rapists are the appropriately slimy types; their antics are almost goofily reprehensible, and you just canít wait to see these guys get what they deserve. And at its heart, this is what this type of film is all about. Iíll never trivialize rape, but its mere presence isnít a damning factor; itís a plot device like any other, and, in this case, it leads to pretty satisfying (and dare I say entertaining) third act that leaves the woman fully empowered.

Thatís something I would say about the original as well (and astute viewers picked up on the feminist undertones of it years ago); for all the hand-wringing over the filmís subject matter, at the end of the day, I Spit on Your Grave simply exists to give an audience the satisfaction of seeing a pack of idiot rednecks get theirs in bloody fashion. In this respect, this is one redux that lives up to its predecessorís legacy; as a film, it also outdoes it. After a brief unrated run in theaters (you probably didnít hear much about it due to the hype surrounding another unrated movie), Anchor Bay has brought it to DVD and Blu-ray, and on par with the companyís previous standards. The Blu-ray transfer is sharp and rich with detail, while the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track will envelop your room. Special features include a making-of feature, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, radio spots, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with Monroe and producer Lisa Hansen. Like Zarchi's original, this one will probably be spat upon and dismissed; in reality, it should just be seen and embraced as the drive-in, grindhouse fare that it is. Buy it!

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