Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Considering the original remake of Meir Zarchi’s 1978 “video nasty” I Spit On Your Grave was generally well received for its impressively uncompromising approach when it arrived a few years ago, a certain amount of expectant good will could be afforded to news of a sequel despite the overriding question on anyone’s mind: Do we really need this?
Well, feeling confident that we do, ISOYG remake director Steven R. Monroe returns behind the camera for a second outing of rape-revenge mayhem only to prove that no, we most certainly don’t need this. Not at all, thanks.
Jemma Dallender plays Katie, a young waitress and aspiring model struggling to catch her big break. Enticed by an ad on a notice board for a free professional portfolio, Katie comes into contact with dodgy Bulgarian trio Ivan (Absolom), Georgy (Baharov) and Nick (Aleksiev). Shortly into the shoot it becomes apparent that the main intention here is for photographer Ivan to entice young wannabes into removing their clothes for internet-bound nudie shots, and a shaken Katie decides to abandon the session rather than compromise her integrity.
Soon after, Ivan’s simpleton brother, Georgy, shows up at Katie’s apartment with a USB stick containing the photos she did take — but his actual intentions are clear. Crystal, in fact, when she awakens in the dead of night to find him perched at the foot of her bed. After raping Katy and murdering a friendly neighbour who comes to her assistance, a panicky Georgy calls in his brother and pal to clean up the situation. After being forcibly drugged, Katy awakens bound on a dirty mattress in a dank basement, in the process of being raped once again (this time by Nick), before being urinated on. The specifics of further twists and turns will be ignored for the sake of anyone who actually decides they want to watch this drivel, but suffice to say that Katie escapes, is brought back, abused some more, then escapes again. Finding that she has somehow been transported from New York to Bulgaria (did they stuff her in a suitcase or something?), Katie scavenges in the sewers before coming to the attention of a local friendly priest who provides her with food, clothes and a Bible. Becoming obsessed with the Good Book’s passages on vengeance, Katy sets about stalking her attackers and, eventually, sets each of them up for a thematic death at her hands.
Whereas Monroe’s first attempt at the material was populated by solid characters, and especially heinous villains, I Spit On Your Grave 2 is utterly bereft of characterisation, logic, or anything but abject cynicism. The villains are cookie-cutter Eastern European-accented bully boys straight from the Hostel ilk, meanwhile Katie merely transforms from screaming victim to a perpetual death stare-sporting angel of personal vengeance. This is a failing of the script rather than Dallender’s performance, however, which is as brave as could be expected from someone expected to go through such a gruelling experience. For the first act, she does try to bring as much life as possible to her character, but ultimately becomes reduced to nothing but scowling and shouting as she recites phrases back to her captors before finishing them off. A particularly miscalculated piece of dialogue sees Katie’s reaction to learning that she is in Bulgaria become more of an unintentional piece of comedy than the devastating revelation it tries so hard to be.
Pacing is also a serious problem for the latter half of the film, as Katie’s stalking is dragged out to unreasonable limits, leaving the carnage for the final circa twenty minutes of runtime. Considering Dallender has just about next to nothing to do during this time, and the rest is populated with non-characters such as the villains and a wholly ineffective police detective slowly putting the pieces together, it soon becomes a case of wishing that Monroe would just get on with it. We know the formula by now, and with a script so sparse drawing the proceedings out to such a degree becomes torturous in itself.
Visually, I Spit On Your Grave 2 is predominantly dark and grim, bathed in the concrete grey one comes to expect from modern American horror set in Eastern European climes but wholly ineffective in the oppressive, stark atmosphere that it obviously wants to create. Ineffective, also, are the deaths visited upon the villains — the real money for a film such as this is in the comeuppance, and, as with everything that comes before it, I Spit On Your Grave 2 continually fumbles the ball all over the place with deaths that feel misguidedly self-assured of their inventiveness, but lack the impact necessary to leave a mark. Well, all besides the particularly easy leg-crossing reaction to someone’s balls being crushed in a vice.
And that’s pretty much all that this dreadful sequel has to offer. While the original brought enough to the table with its approach to justify its existence, the experience here is relegated to slapping a pair of testicles between contracting slabs of metal. It’s difficult to believe that the same filmmaker is behind this turgid, lazy, soulless and skill-less mess. Reeking of cynical cash-grab and no greater intention than the launching of a continued franchise, I Spit On Your Grave 2 is thoroughly worthless trash that adds next to nothing of value to the genre, or your life.
1/2 out of 5