Fantasia 2010: Day 4

Why the hell is this freaking serial killer tire movie so damn popular?! On Sunday we were unsuccessful for a second time in our attempt to see Rubber. The screening room was once again packed to the point that media seating was limited. Hopefully Fantasia will hold a third screening, ideally in a bigger room, because for some unfathomable reason there seems to be a serious fanbase for movies about killer tires.

Why? Is it that it’s round and can move without human intervention? Is self-locomotion implicit in the appeal? Would a film about any type of murderous wheel work just as well? What about a hula hoop? Is the next big sub-genre staring us in the face and we just can’t see it? Beats the hell out of me, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to figure it out before the end of the festival.

We did manage to take in the world premiere of Steven Monroe’s I Spit On Your Grave remake (review here), and the screening and Q&A goes down in Fantasia history as perhaps the most uncomfortable ever.

Fantasia 2010

But first, the verdict – the remake is a good little horror flick that succeeds as fan service and entertainment but lacks the moral ambiguity of the original, making it a far less controversial and interesting film. As a standalone movie it would come decently recommended, but when compared to the 1978 original it comes across as tepid and lazy. Part of the discomfort in watching the original was that viewers always had to contend with the salacious elements, constantly on guard lest they find themselves titillated rather than terrified. The remake doesn’t even try to walk that razor’s edge, and it’s clear from the start that while the movie is happy to show the obligatory bikini and underwear shots, once the raping begins, the ogling stops. When presenting the horror of rape, the remake seems to declare, “It is now time to feel disturbed”, whereas the original whispered gutturally in your ear, “Are you disturbed?” Big difference.

In the original Jennifer Hills uses her destroyed sexuality and the rapists stunted understanding of women as a weapon. The men view her post-rape come ons as a natural reaction to their virility, which allows her to get close enough to murder them despite her strength disadvantage. In the remake Jennifer Hills isn’t required to compromise her body further since she is seemingly able to subdue men at will, stringing them up into Saw-like contraptions that, while far more elaborate and entertaining than the original, lack any of the tragic irony of a victim valued only for her sex having to resort to sex to take her revenge.

That said, I Spit On Your Grave has some standout performances from Sarah Butler (reprising the Jennifer Hill role in a performance one audience member declared the most powerful performance of a rape survivor since Ned Beatty!) and Blood River’s Andrew Howard (in a disturbing role unique to the remake, that of Sheriff Storch). It is also not surprisingly a far more technically accomplished film, and despite looking and sounding a whole lot better, it tries its best to remain faithful to the original. This is by no means a pointless cash grab, and it’s being released unrated is a testament to how much the filmmakers believe in their movie. Capturing the lightning in a bottle that has made the original so long lasting is no easy feat, and the remake deserves an audience if only to spawn the heated debate that is sure to rage both among horror fans and likely among mainstream critics and press.

Which leads me to the screening itself. Not only did someone pass out during the grody as hell revenge parts of the film (injuring themselves unfortunately), but during the post-screening Q&A a passionate (though misguided) young fan stood up and publicly accused the director of making a pointless gore film. In a scene that could only happen at Fantasia, Mitch Davis calmed the crowd down, handed the guy the microphone and let him say his piece, after which Meir Zarchi, director of the original film hugged the agitated young man and sent him on his way! The overzealous critique was inarticulate and lacked a point, but the reaction was visceral nonetheless. I expect once the movie gets a wider distribution in October that we’ll hear more of these kind of heartfelt responses. So, in the end, while the 1978 and 2010 films are very different, they both seem to divide audiences and create discussion, which is more than you can say about most remakes…

Fantasia 2010: Day 4
“Mitch Davis, Steven R. Monroe, Sarah Butler, Meir Zarchi”

Evil Andy

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  • nixskits

    I’m the “one audience member” Evil Andy refers to for highly praising Sarah Butler’s performance. And yes, I did think she was first rate in the role (my verbatim quote after her response to my question about whether she had any reservations about taking the part was, “Along with Ned Beatty in Mr. Boorman’s ‘Deliverance’ and Jodie Foster in ‘The Accused’, this is one of the great portrayals of a rape survivor and I commend you!”). And I stand by that statement! If we don’t believe in her and empathize with her trauma and subsequent vengeance, this would’ve been a rather pointless exercise in horror. Chad Lindberg as the mentally challenged man of the assailant group also gives a terrific interpretation of what could be just more bad taste in less talented hands, but the script, direction and overall quality of the small cast makes ISOYG 2010 in a class by itself for “remakes” and all the controversy they earn. Trying to release this in it’s uncut version will be an uphill battle all the way and I hope there’s enough people willing to give this adult, but non-pornographic film a shot.

  • walkerp

    Great stuff! I was too scared to see the original and my wife dragged me to this one. My own take on it was much more simplistic (I thought it was basically quite efficient and well done) but you have made me re-think that. Very interesting analysis about how the lack of titillation actually weakens the film’s impact. I too really appreciated Mitch and Meir’s handling of that guy. And I’m glad to see you guys are finally starting to pick up the pace! Keep it coming!

    My thoughts are here: