I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE - 2010
Have you ever seen the original? You have? Well this version isn't better than the original, but it's not worse either. It's just different. It's like this...
Writer and Director Meir Zarchi's 1978 classic, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was made to be an out & out Revenge flick. It was written and directed to manipulate your feelings, repulse and shock your senses, and have you exult in the revenge of a woman who was unquestionably pushed too far.
As before, a 20 something woman named Jennifer (Sarah Butler: FLU BIRD HORROR) goes out to the middle of absolutely nowhere to write her new novel. Nothing wrong with that. Who doesn't want to hit the great outdoors for some peace and quiet? But Jennifer blithely does this without any protection at all. No gun, knife, not even a baseball bat. Hell, not even a dog to alert her if someone is coming. Nope. Completely frail and defenseless, Jennifer goes out to the woods. Worse, she naively lets the most threatening of the locals know about it. This jejune assumption that all is safe and serene with the world has never worked for any living creature in the history of ever. Life feeds life. Pioneers were well stocked with knives and guns in case of trouble. The only folks who have utterly alienated themselves in the remote backwoods without anything at all to defend themselves from anything at all, and came back alive, were the lucky ones. I'm not saying it can't happen, but it's playing Russian Roulette with three bullets in the chamber.
Actually, that's the big problem with nearly all of the "folks in the backwoods terrorized by rednecks" movies. The prey always have to be unprotected naifs to make the movie work. Otherwise, one shot and game over, the wounded slasher/redneck(s) go running the hell away, maybe minus one dead redneck.*
So Jenny goes to a gas station, finds the local boys intimidating, even threatening, and asks them for directions to where she is going because she is lost.
Okay, let's look at this logically. I'm a guy. If I was at a gas station and other guys, much bigger than me, were making fun of me, being intimidating, threatening, quick to anger, and sexually harassing, would I tell them that I'm getting away to be by myself and give them my remote address? And if that somehow slipped out before I sussed the situation up, would I STILL go out to that backwoods, remote cabin far from everyone? I mean, okay sure, be as non-judgmental as you want and give Peace a Chance, but still... DAMN!
Off Jenny goes and it's a wonderful cabin with a lovely lake and it's all so idyllic, so she goes swimming and everything is just swell.
At night she hears weird noises outside. She has no idea what those noises could be so, she UNLOCKS HER DOOR and goes outside and THEN shouts to the dark (with herself well targeted in the light of her porch), "Is somebody out there?"
Hello? Woods? Mountain Lions? BEARS? Hello? Malevolent HUMANS? Jenny sees a distant tool shed with its door ajar. She walks in the dark rural night (she doesn't live here, she is just renting. She doesn't know this place like someone who is used to such a place would know it), investigates the tool shed with all of its sharp, cutting, choppy tools, and locks the door.
She hears more noises in the dark later so she... drinks wine and gets high.
I grant you that, of course my senses are on alert because I know I'm watching a Horror Thriller movie called I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. My suspension of disbelief requires that I know Jenny has no idea she is about to wind up in a Horror movie. Never mind the fact that she is a writer and should have some semblance of imagination and foresight. How many of you, all alone at night, and hearing noises in a rental cabin out in a strange, middle of nowhere place, would go to investigate said noises All By Yourself, in the dark, without even a flashlight?
The boys come calling, with the terrorizing torture and rape scenes. For I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2010, these scenes, while brutal and disgusting, are not scary. Why was rape and beating scarier in the original?
Director Meir Zarchi and actor Camille Heaton.
Camille played Jennifer in the 1978 version and she wasn't just scared and humiliated, she appeared utterly terrified! Her acting out her abject helpless terror on screen to this day, doesn't just merely disgust us like cheap, sanitized torture porn, it enrages us. And Meir went with that. As the audience, we feel our own self-worth and security plummet as we believe that, for all of their vile stupidity, such people in the world exist. We know they exist. We read in the news about what these people do. And with the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, we got the story that the news doesn't report. We fully empathize - which is what any good Horror movie should do.
Director Steven R. Monroe (HOUSE OF 9, IT WAITS, LEFT IN DARKNESS, OGRE) pulled back from that. He didn't want Jenny to look like she was going out of her mind with unforgivably cruel suffering, and actor Sarah Butler didn't want to do that either. Too bad because the adaptation by writer Stuart Morris was prepared for just that. The script allowed for that, Steven didn't. Maybe he's been making Horror movies for the SyFy channel for so long that he has an imaginary TV censor in his mind, chiding him when he goes too far. I dunno.
What I do know is this: While the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE had a superior first act, the 2010 remake has a superior second act. The second act is revenge of course, the title and the poster gives that away. In the original, I never bought into Jenny coming back to seduce her rapists one by one and then kill them. That didn't make sense to me. The simply clever ways in which Jenny in 2010 turns her rapists against each other, and exacts her revenge, made all the sense in the world. That's exactly how I'd expect a traumatized, enraged person to behave.
Bear in mind that this is exploitation cinema and its supposed to be manipulative. In fact, it is so linear that there is a lot I'm not telling thanks to additional surprises writer Morse put into play in this 2010 version. But understand as well that you don't have to leave your brain at the door for this one. Jenny is naive and trusting but never stupid. Just as we can believe that there are evil people in the world like Johnny (Jeff Branson: WOLVES OF WALL STREET), Andy (Rodney Eastman: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER), and Stanley (Daniel Franzese: Stephen Speilberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, CRUEL WORLD, KILLER PAD, KILL THEORY). We also know that there are otherwise good people who are willing to do evil to be accepted, like Matthew (Chad Lindberg: SUPERNATURAL [TV]), so we can believe that there are book smart but experience ignorant people like Jenny.
All of the actors here bring their A Game as if they knew what was on the line and truly had to "bring it". Special kudos to actors Andrew Howard (BELOW, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN) as Sheriff Storch and the ever reliable Tracey Walter (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, IMPOSTOR, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE , WASTING AWAY) as Earl Woodason. For his part, this is the best Horror movie that director Steven R. Munroe has yet made. And I know what I'm talking about because I saw IT WAITS.
The second act brings the full blown catharsis and revenge that the story required and nothing was held back. What's more, it ends exactly where it needs to without any meandering second and third endings. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010) is no better than the original, but it's certainly the equal - in different ways - of the original, as well as a solid update. What more could Meir Zarchi or an audience want?
4 Shriek Girls.
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