Reviewed by Paul McCannibal
Starring Andrew Howard, Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
The notoriety of Meir Zarchi’s original I Spit on your Grave speaks for itself, and basically if you’re aware of what that film is about (how could you not if you’re a genre fan), then you know precisely what this remake is about. Nothing about the premise has been changed much. So keep that in mind before you decide to watch it, and perhaps more importantly, keep in mind who you will be watching it with. This isn’t one to spring on the in-laws after a Sunday dinner. Like the original ISOYG, this new execution of it is harsh, nasty, mean, and violent as all hell.
Before I get into the review, I’ll offer my stand on this remake situation. Remakes of 70’s and 80’s horror flicks are a major point of contention these days, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was (and still sometimes am) on the anti-side of this whole arguably needless current. But over time, I’ve seen a few remakes that I really dug. My favourite was the outstanding Toolbox Murders remake. I thought The Crazies was decent and I have to give begrudging props to Dawn of the Dead 2004 because even though it wasn’t the best horror movie I’ve seen by a long shot, it was fun to watch. I have also seen the lousy Friday the 13th and Elm Street remakes, so I know how bad and annoying they can be.
From my standpoint, ISOYG 2010 sits squarely on the good side of remakes. Very good, in fact. I should clarify that by “good” I mean well executed, punishing, and viciously rewarding. If you’ve got the stomach for this kind of thing, and you can endure the horribly unpleasant and drawn-out rape/degradation scene, you’ll be ratcheted into a headspace that is screaming for retribution. The bad guys in this movie are so despicable that you will have absolutely no qualms with seeing them get what is coming to them.
The plot is simple. City girl Jennifer rents a cabin in the woods to get some peace and to focus on her latest writing project. She’s attractive, friendly, sophisticated, basically a polar-opposite to the backwoods losers she unfortunately happens upon at a gas station. The hoods take a dislike to her right away and decide to take out their narrow minded hatred against city-gals on her by gang-raping her.
That whole rape portion of the movie is just awful to watch, so be warned. I suppose this is where the discussion ensues as to whether this type of thing is okay to view as entertainment on any level… obviously taking pleasure in seeing a depiction of a rape is totally wrong. It was weird watching this sequence in the theatre, because I heard some people giggling during portions of the rape stuff. I can’t relate to that at all. Maybe that tittering was coming from a nervous place, that reflexive laughter that slips out of some people when they are extremely uneasy and can’t channel an appropriate response. I would certainly hope so.
Anyway, once this brutality is meted out, our heroine is led away to be killed and dumped in the river. Her body ends up in the water, but the hoods are unsure if she is dead. They’re stuck trawling the riverbank hoping to find her corpse so any evidence can be destroyed. As time goes by and nothing comes up, they sink back into their miserable ugly trailer trash lives and assume Jennifer is a goner.
Well guess what… she comes back. And boy does she have some gruesome master-plans to make these creeps suffer and die! Her gradual return from the woods is the turning point in the film, the part where I started to loosen up a little and slowly accept the cheap but effective shock value of the narrative. It would be really silly to compare this in any substantial way to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I will briefly just to make a quick point: is there a viewer out there who didn’t feel a rush of gleeful vindication when Nurse Ratched got strangled by R.P. McMurphy?
That kind of satisfaction ensues in the ISOYG remake over a series of epic revenge set pieces that are way over the top and sadistically creative. Mentions of “Saw” came up after the screening in relation to these Grand-Guignol slaughter-scenes, and I guess fair enough, but for me it’s a different effect when you really, justly want to see vile characters pay for their viciousness and lack of mercy through agonizing tortuous dispatchings. To me, that’s a lot different than with a lot of the other generic torture porn films, where you are stuck seeing lame characters you are supposed to be on side with in some way getting surgically greased and butchered on film. Here, you can feel good about it. I really liked last year’s The Horseman for similar reasons.
A big part of that satisfying “goodness” in the cumulative effect of ISOYG 2010 comes from the performance of Sarah Butler as Jennifer. You can’t help but feel deeply sorry for her for what she goes through over the duration of the rape sequence. This type of performance is not easy – it’s the kind of thing where the wrong kind of scream or a little under/overdone nuance can ruin the entire movie. Butler is a genuine talent and carries the film well. She is equally effective when she returns to stalk, menace, and cut down her attackers – she’s got that merciless head-down stare thing going on, and she does it perfectly. You will love seeing her get the bad guys in this flick.
This is an exploitation film, unapologetically so. Keep that in mind and you’ll be able to walk the tightrope and get through this grueling movie experience without feeling too morally bankrupt inside. Did it work as a rape/revenge movie? Absolutely. Was it shocking? Yes (a guy at the screening I was at fainted, so again I reiterate to be careful who you decide to watch this with!!). Does it raise questions about our inner cravings for violent justice? Sorta, but in that simplistic Death Wish way. Nothing new there. We all know rape is very, very bad.
But ultimately, was it a good horror movie? Yes! It was great!
And was it as good as the original ISOYG? I haven’t seen the original in many years and only have fragmented memories of it, so I can’t say. Some people I saw the 2010 version with said the remake is definitely better. Meir Zarchi executive produced ISOYG 2010, so it wasn’t done without his blessing or involvement. He was at the screening I went to and he is very happy with the outcome.
The movie’s promo tagline is “It’s date night”. Well, I’m definitely a cheap date for ISOYG 2010!
4 out of 5
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