Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review - I Spit on Your Grave

Novelist Jennifer Hills has rented a secluded cabin in the woods to finish her next book. Her plans of a peaceful and quite writing sabbatical are soon changed after a group of local men attack then repeatedly rape her. Battered, broken and left for dead, Jennifer then takes to a deadly game of revenge on the very men who brutalized her.

One thing horror fans had better get use to is remakes. Whether they are cult or more mainstream titles, Hollywood has taken a liking to remaking movies that have been pre-established with a fanbase. We all know the top tier slasher horrors have already been remade and now Hollywood has begun to dumpster dive for older and more smaller titles.

This brings us to "I Spit on Your Grave," a movie that originally released under the title "Day of the Woman" in 1978. The movie was slammed (for good reason) by Roger Ebert and quickly vanished. It was later re-released in 1980 under the more familiar title and became a cult favorite. Fast forward to now and we have Anchor Bay Entertainment releasing an unrated remake of the rape and revenge filled horror.

Luckily for remake director Steven R. Monroe and screenwriter Stuart Morse improving on the original "I Spit on Your Grave" doesn't seem that hard to do. The original is overfilled with noticeable problems. The biggest and most apparent improvement in the remake is the character of Jennifer Hills. The audience can actually feel for her and remorse along with her this time around. In the original film, Jennifer comes across as flirty and her actions while seeking revenge on the attackers are confusing and upsetting. This time around Jennifer is the stark opposite. She is by every sense of the word a victim and her revenge filled tactics are exactly what you'd hoped for.

By all accounts the 'I Spit' remake is a painstaking film to watch. There is no easy way to handle the topic of rape, and the 2010 unrated film goes as far as it can displaying the act of without becoming an outright porno. While the original 1978 film contained quite a bit of comic relief to ease the pain of watching a female repeatedly raped, the update does not and is a serious account of the brutality involved in the act. The imagery that persists throughout the ongoing attack is beyond disturbing. Director Steven R. Monroe deserves a ton of credit for creating a tone that is completely unsettling to sit through and will definitely question your resolve to see the movie through.

Not only is the imagery unnerving throughout "I Spit on Your Grave" but as are the performances. The attackers are excellent at making you hate them. Each one of the five attackers will have the viewer desperately wanting them to meet their demise. The verbal and physical assault they inflict upon Jennifer is inhumane and absolutely revolting. Screenwriter Stuart Morse actually gave the local men real development, where in the original they basically just had four goons running around creating havoc, here they come across as real life characters you would want to avoid.

I'd like to talk for a moment about the demise itself. Jennifer Hills becomes even more brutal than her assaulters by the end. Much like any vendetta, Jennifer is out for revenge, but the level in which she carries out that vengeance is revolting while also being cheer inducing. Let's be straight, the men in this movie deserve everything they have coming to them. Each kill is more grotesque then the previous, but at the same time they each provide enjoyment and satisfaction. Watching these men beg and plea for their lives tickled me immensely.  Watching them die also made up for all the vivid and to hard watch moments leading up to the revenge payoff. Pay close attention to the onslaught of actions and dialogue the men use on Jennifer, because it comes full circle when she carries out her bloody revenge.

The first two acts of "I Spit on Your Grave" are very sluggish. For one the setup just takes too long. Unlike the original, the remake spends a ton of time before Jennifer's attackers are at her doorstep. Another aspect that leads to the film feeling slowly paced is the lengthy rape sequence. The scene moves across a couple locations and really ends up feeling dragged out. Now that is not to say the sequences aren't effective, because they most definitely are, they just are tough to watch and seem to go on forever. Once the ball does get rolling though, it more than makes up for the unhurried start. I thoroughly enjoyed the 3rd act to 'Grave' and think the effects department did a stand-up job on mainly practical effects.

Anchor Bay Entertainment deserves praise for making a decision to release "I Spit on Your Grave" in an unrated fashion. Sure it won't release in as many theaters as it would if the production company had edited the film down for an R rating, but something would've been lost in the process. 'Grave' is tense, vicious and most all of unapologetic about its violence and subject matter. It covers a topic that is taboo and hard to stomach, let alone watch. It is a film that word of mouth should generate interest and force people into seeing. Furthermore it sets a standard that doesn't cater to the box office. Too many horror movies look push for the PG13 rating so that teens can see the movie.

Finally "I Spit on Your Grave" deserves the title Day of the Woman far more than the original film.  The remake absolutely champions and empowers women. Ok, it rapes them first, but the message is clear. Like many movies that have come before 'Grave' that are filled with all the right elements to get men excited, this film has a finale that should have women cheering and pumping their fists. Granted you've got to make it through a heavy dose of despair and obscene before you get there.