I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010)
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
2010 - 108 Minutes/Widescreen
DVD Provided by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review by written Mark Engle
Surprisingly, as a genre fan, I've found myself enjoying quite a few remakes in the last decade. Some have been very different from the original, while respecting its source material. Some have been practically the same film via alternative directorial styles, giving it a different vibe all together. And then there are the rest of them. The awful cash-ins, the bad ideas, horrible direction, unbearable acting and so on. So, I have to admit, I'm on the middle of the fence when it comes to remakes. I've learned not to hate an announcement like a DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, and sit back and try and watch the new version from its own perspective. Of course, you can't help but compare the new vs. the old, which I'm about to do here. For the first time, in the last decade (this is to avoid JC's THE THING, Cronenberg's THE FLY, and 1978's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), I honestly feel a remake is better than the original. It only took about 25 years for that to happen.
For everything I despised in the original DAY OF THE WOMAN aka I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1977), they got it right here and then some. However, I must admit, I'm going to be a tad biased on this one, since the original is on my most despised "notorious" horror movie list of all time, right up there with the much touted CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST as the most hypocritical popular horror movies from a great decade of incredible cinema. DAY OF THE WOMAN? Indeed, but only if you agree that the best day for any female is spending a good 60-minutes of screen time getting raped and barely 15 minutes of revenge (along with a good 20 minutes of nonsensical scenery shots). I'll probably get hate mail for those kinds of comments, but in a nutshell, the original merely felt like a sick and twisted misogynistic foray into evil male fantasy. Midnight showings, word of mouth, and tons of negative publicity kept I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE from becoming a forgotten trashy fetish movie.
At this point, you can probably imagine my trepidation in sitting down on the couch and watching a retelling of one of my most hated genre titles. Why would I do such a thing? Well, originally, I felt it was my duty to be one of those critics to warn against the garbage, fight the filth (not even on moral grounds, mind you) and be the minority voice that argues, "This is crap, avoid at all costs." Well, I have to eat those words and give writer Stuart Morse and director Steven R. Monroe (IT WAITS!) credit of turning out a mature revenge film where the emphasis and payoff is on the revenge. The villains are tormented, emotionally destroyed, tortured and then finally killed off one by one in what seems very fitting moments of violent retribution. Something the original lacked. Sure, they got killed, but in 1977, they got off easy with quick deaths compared to the horrible violence violated on our lead character Jennifer Hills.
What really works here is the fact that not only does the retaliation fit the crime, and you definitely find yourself rooting for Jennifer, but it also manages to disturb the viewer at the same time. The "just desserts" malevolently go beyond the original violation, which was so horrendous to begin with that one can definitely find his or herself wincing away from the torturous retribution. It's brutal, horrific, painful, and very deserving of the evil characters that permeate throughout the film. Once the original rape ends, the tension switches from the tormented to the tormentors and never lets up for one second. No attempts at humor making the proceedings feel like a bad joke or in bad taste.
Now that isn't to say this is an easy movie to sit through. Hardly. The screenplay sharply recognizes the emotional strain all the characters go through, and the torture is shown as a mental cat and mouse game before the physical end of it even starts. It's emotionally disturbing when the rapists torment their victim Jennifer before the several violations begin, and it's four times the torment before the criminals finally get theirs, but not until after they plead for their lives, beg to be let go, and then are tortured some more, revealing the true narcissist colors of self-gratification that got them in the mess in the first place.
Everything, especially the violence, feels very real, and that goes in the acting department as well. Another factor that in a movie like this, the performances could have thrown off the entire production. Sarah Butler (FLU BIRDS) carries the entire movie as Jennifer Hills. Tough and vulnerable, her modern vision twists the weaknesses of the original character and she makes the role her own. Andrew Howard (BELOW, BLOOD RIVER) is also a big stand out as the local sheriff with an agenda all his own. The rest of the culprits find the right tones of ignorance and violence to make the moments of dread just head on and in your face rather than over the top, which easily could have been done. It's also good to see veteran character actor Tracey Walter (REPO MAN, CONAN THE DESTROYER) in a small but pivotal role as well.
Anchor Bay's DVD presentation is great supporting a flawless 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer with good strong sounds and sturdy colors. Extras include a director/producer commentary, deleted scenes, trailers, radio spot, and a so-so behind-the-scenes featurette that has a few interviews and shots videotaped on the set between takes. The tag line used on the cover from a review quote and used in the advertising campaign is, "If you can handle it, see it." I'd have to agree. Rape/Revenge films are not for everyone, including myself for the most part. But I have no problem recommending this mature foray into the genre if you think you can stomach it.