With Cinetel Films’ remake of the infamous 1978 rape-revenge film I Spit on Your Grave hitting theaters unrated on October 8th courtesy of the rather ballsy Anchor Bay Entertainment, this writer hit the film’s red carpet premiere last night in Hollywood, CA, and brought back some ocular candy as well as interviews with some of the principals…and a rather interesting bit of news.
Although I Spit is credited as being penned by one ‘Stuart Morse’, while speaking to friend Adam Rockoff (author of the erudite tome Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film and screenwriter of the Fever Dreams’ flick Wicked Lake), we came to find that both are one and the same.
Said Rockoff, just to the side of the carpet melee, of the reason for his nom de plume in penning the Steven R. Monroe-directed film, “Basically when I wrote it, I was working with an advertising company that did a lot of work with kids, and it made me nervous that if they Googled me the first thing that would come up would be ‘rape-revenge’. I mean Wicked Lake was out there, but this film brings it up a notch!”
Rockoff, who prior to the premiere had not yet seen the finished film, commented further, “I will say that if she did not get her revenge in the fashion that I wrote it, then I never would have (written the remake) because I think it would have become sheer exploitation as opposed to exploitation with – dare I say – a moral at the end of it. If it was just to see her wallow in degradation, then I never would have done it, and I don’t think anyone would have wanted to have seen it. I think that when the tables are turned and you are really rooting for her, then I think that was a reason to do it.”
As for the character arc he intended for the protagonist-turned-antagonist ‘Jennifer Hills’ (actress Sarah Butler in a courageous performance), “I am guessing that when she realizes the gravity of what she’s done that it gives her pause, although I have to say that when I wrote it, I didn’t want to give her pause. I wanted those fucking assholes, for lack of a better term, to get what was coming to them in spades. I have to tell you though that (director) Steven Monroe, Lisa Hansen the producer, Neil Elma, who’s the vice president (of Cinetel), and even at the time Neil’s assistant Ashley O’Neil – who is the development executive there now – were instrumental and fantastic in helping me develop it. They were an invaluable help, and it was a team effort.”
On hand for the screening was director of the original I Spit on Your Grave Mier Zarchi (who served as producer on the remake), as were the remake’s principal cast in their entirety (Jeff Branson, Rodney Eastman, Daniel Franzese, Chad Lindberg, Tracey Walter, Mollie Milligan, Andrew Howard and lead Butler), with actress Jon Mack (Saw 6), actress Lorielle New, actor AJ Bowen (The Signal, Hatchet II), and Monroe alumna Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever) taking the carpet as well.
Lindberg (best known to horror fans for his role of ‘Ash’ in the television series “Supernatural” but now soon most likely for delivering an indelible portrayal of a mentally-challenged man exploited by circumstance and the cruelty of his peers) spoke to us on the carpet regarding his inclusion.
“I had no idea that this film was a remake until I was cast,” said the 34-year old actor, “and it wasn’t until I went online and started to research it that I realized there was a following behind this and it was a huge cult classic. What drew me to it was the script. I really respond to dark material.”
“I did watch the original, just before we started filming,” he continued, “and I had to make sure that the volume was down because you don’t want your neighbors to hear this crazy stuff going on, but I wanted to get a sense of the film, and I feel like I did a fresh take on the character of Matthew. I was very nervous before filming. I wanted to play it right, and it’s a fine line to play. I didn’t want to go over the top with it, but I wanted to bring a subtlety and innocence and purity to the character so you almost feel bad for him – but not really, if you know what I mean.”
Dread chatted briefly with I Spit on Your Grave redux director Monroe, who arrived in-hand with wife Melanie, and while there wasn’t much to discuss following our recent and lengthy interview with the filmmaker (read that article here), Monroe did wax, “It’s going to be fun to see it with mostly an industry crowd and to see how people react and/or are afraid to react. Our film deals with some disturbing content, and I hope that people that do see it are going to be affected by it.”
When questioned if he’ll be partaking in the time-honored Hollywood tradition of attending general audience screenings of the film on opening night in order to gauge viewer reaction, Monroe stated, “I’m going to be out of the country so I’ll be calling people to see how it’s playing. I’d love to, but I can’t!” (The reason is that Monroe is tied up with another project although we must remain unfortunately mum on that for now).
I Spit on Your Grave (review here) and Cinetel Films producer Lisa Hansen stated cautiously yet enthusiastically following the tremendous numbers stemming from previous test screenings, “I do think that people will talk about this film (after having seen it) and get people into it.”
Commenting on the fact that for the first time in recent history two horror films are being released unrated theatrically within one week of another (the other being Adam Green’s Hatchet II) and how this shift may affect film distribution in the future, Hansen reflected, “I think these are the first pebbles being thrown into the pond. We announced we were releasing I Spit on Your Grave unrated months ago, and it encouraged and emboldened another film to do the same thing. No one knows what the results are going to be, and it’s been hard to get (the film) into theatres, but I’m hopeful that this is really going to take off and that other films will have the courage to do this and not just wait for DVD (to release unrated). People are going to have to show up in the seats for that to happen though.”
Star Sarah Butler, who’s simultaneously juggling her intensive press tour (she left for Calgary, Canada this morning) for I Spit on Your Grave as well as her involvement with Dread Central’s The Horror Starlets, a team raising money for the breast cancer charity The Busted Foundation, told us while being bombarded by press and paparazzo alike, “I’m not going to lie,” of being reunited with her I Spit cast so many months after wrap, “but we got together for some beers yesterday!”
While we kept our interview short (stay tuned for a lengthy one we conducted with the actress last week – coming soon to Dread), we did ask Sarah of her feelings pertaining to the premiere, which was heavily attended by her friends and family – a possibly anxiety-ridden evening for the actress given the flick’s subject matter.
“I’m feeling great!” she unexpectedly countered. “My mom and dad, my sister, my auntie, and a couple of my best friends are all here; and it was actually kind of a scuffle over the tickets! Everyone’s so excited to see me get raped, and I don’t know what that’s about!” she joked. “I’m just really excited, and it’s crazy to be here. It’s my first big premiere.”
Did audience members flee the subsequent screening? By this writer’s count eight people took that course at the approximate moments when I predicted they would. It’s a shame because the antagonists’ comeuppance is worth the wait, and Butler’s performance throughout, as difficult as it is to sometimes watch, shines in my opinion. I Spit on Your Grave is Cinetel’s response to the recent wave of hard-core French film, and if you’re a staunch fan of that particular brand of unflinching cinema, then I recommend that you don’t miss it.
– Sean D.
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