Title: I Spit On Your Grave
Director: Steven R. Monroe, previously known for SyFy Channel "classics" such as Wyvern and Ice Twisters.
Cast: Mostly people you've never heard of, plus Tracey Walter ("Miller" from Repo Man) as the movie's only male non-rapist.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Two out of five garden shears.
Tagline: "It's date night."
Better Tagline: "You'll never be more ashamed to have a penis."
Brief Synopsis: Woman, brutally assaulted by trailer trash and law enforcement, exacts bloody, nausea-inducing revenge.
Not So Brief Synopsis: Jennifer is a novelist who's come to bayou country to write her new book. She runs afoul of Johnny, Stanley, and Andy, the local triumvirate of good ole boys (and Matthew, the mentally challenged young man they evidently keep around for amusement). And by "runs afoul of" I mean "makes the mistake of asking for directions from." After enduring a night of sexual assault at their hands (and those of the local sheriff ... top that, Bellaire PD), she manages to escape, returning a month later to deal with her tormentors in the fashion most satisfying to modern audiences.
Pros: Unlike original director Meir Zarchi, Monroe has actually held a camera before; non-foreign film watchers finally get to see male genitalia on the big screen.
Cons: Audience reaction to the scene where Matthew is finally goaded into "taking his turn" will make you wish for a rogue asteroid to wipe out humanity once and for all.
"Critical" Analysis: This is a remake of the infamous 1978 movie originally -- and laughably -- titled Day of the Woman. It was savaged on its release (Roger Ebert called sitting through one of the most depressing experiences of his life), but found a cult foothold in later years as an alleged story of female empowerment.
None of that is on display here. The remake is "better" (meaning worse) in one way: The lead-up to the actual assault is excruciating. Audiences in 1978 may have had some idea what they were in for, but there's no ambivalence here. Johnny and his buddies toy mercilessly with Jennifer, and us, for a solid 30 minutes. If there's anything at all to recommend ISoYG, it's Monroe's deft manipulation of our dread.
This version is also "worse" (meaning better) when it comes to the actual assault. The artlessness of Zarchi's approach has become legendary, as it was basically a stationary camera filming 20 minutes of horrific violence. Monroe uses off-kilter shots and blurring to water down some of what Jennifer is enduring (the scene is also mercifully shorter than the original).
All this is merely unpleasant prologue to the bitchin' torture the audience is really here to see. In this department, the new version certainly outshines the original ... if you want to call it that. Keen-eyed audience members will note the boat in the remake lacks an outboard, which played a key role in the original. Not to worry, for Jennifer is a creative sort (she's a writer, after all), and comes up with a number of grotesque and satisfying punishments.
Naturally, in the post-Saw age, merely slicing a guy's junk off in the bathtub doesn't have the same "oomph" as it did 30 years ago. Don't you worry, the rapists' just desserts have been updated accordingly, with Jennifer utilizing everything from bear traps, lye, and garden shears. There's also a Human Centipede variation we'll just go ahead and call "ass to shotgun."
One aspect that -- along with the agonizing lead-up -- keeps me from totally panning ISoYG is the fate of the movie's sole child character, Sheriff Storch's daughter. That is to say, it's left totally up to us to decide whether Jennifer let her go or...something else. Another movie might have given audiences the relief of seeing her reunited with mommy at the end. We're left hanging, however, which gives I Spit On Your Grave a (very) little more emotional heft.
Audience Reaction Appalling. I understand there were a number of walkouts when the original screened back in the day, but we've obviously become so inured to cinematic brutality we can titter when a mentally challenged man is coerced into commiting sexual assault just like we did when our 8th grade English teacher showed Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet and we saw our first boob. I almost wished for a suicide bomber to come into the theater.
See It/Rent It/Skip It: Skip it, unless your legs are sore from kicking puppies and you need to sit down for a couple hours.
I Spit On Your Grave is in theaters today. See it with someone you don't have a very good opinion of already.
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