I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

It’s a tale as old as time; girl meets rednecks, rednecks gang-rape and humiliate girl, girl exacts revenge and lives happily ever after. Well, perhaps not that last part.

Jennifer Hills is a young writer who, lacking inspiration for her latest novel, decides to retreat to a house in the middle of nowhere in order to improve her concentration. Stopping for petrol on the way, she manages to aggravate several of the misogynistic locals who later decide to taunt her. The taunting becomes increasingly severe and culminates in several of the men, including the local sheriff, raping and beating her. Bruised and broken, she stumbles to a bridge, with the men following her. Before they have a chance to shoot her and secure her silence, she jumps into the water. But that’s not the last they’ve seen of Jennifer Hills……

Meir Zarchi‘s Day Of The Woman was first released in 1978 to a huge furore over the films graphic, offensive and exploitative subject matter. In 2010 it was remade as I Spit On Your Grave, to much less furore. A comment on the times we live in? Maybe, but as far as remakes go, I Spit On Your Grave 2010 is a valid contribution to the genre and every bit as emotionally jarring as the original.

Many people have said that by accepting the lead role in I Spit On Your Grave, actress Sarah Butler has committed career suicide and it’s easy to see why. Buster Keaton‘s neice Camille has few credits to her name since starring in Day Of The Woman (although her career has more recently seen something of a resurrection.) But Butler takes on the role with solid dedication and manages to carry the film, with some fairly capable contributions from the actors playing the male antagonists. Despite her best efforts, she is more convincing in the first half of the film than the latter although that might be down to the way director Stephen Monroe chose to progress the story. Contrary to the original’s focus on Jennifer, the remake chooses to follow the lives of the men after the brutality and as a result, we miss out on our protagonists character development and her metamorphosis from battered and broken to determined and vengeful.

As a character, Jennifer Hills is required to be both hero and anti-hero; victim and villain and in that respect Butler, and the films makers, succeed. You feel for her during the lengthy scenes of rape and you root for her during the scenes of gruesome torture and revenge.

Chad Lindberg as Matthew; the learning disabled member of the gang whom the others force into raping Jennifer, is the only cast member who doesn’t quite ring true. His depiction of the stuttering man-child is reduced to facial ticks and incessant rubber band flicking and is just a little too over-the-top. Despite his actions though, he does invoke a certain amount of sympathy so the performance isn’t terrible, just a tad cliched.

The script is cloying at times, sometimes feeling forced but all ends are tied up satisfactorily and the characters, thankfully, never suffer as a result of their dialogue.

The latter half of the movie, while much more graphic than the original, stays fairly true to Meir Zarchi‘s vision, with a couple of the scenes feeling like a direct homage. Without giving too much away, one scene in particular will undoubtedly make every male audience member wince (emphasis on the word ‘member’.)

It certainly has its faults, but on the whole, I Spit On Your Grave is an accomplished piece of exploitation cinema. Sure, it looks glossy but underneath the ‘Hollywood’ veneer is a gritty, nasty film and while, due to the sheer nature of it, it won’t be popular with women, it’s actually the ultimate rape and revenge fantasy and should be viewed as something of a feminist statement. Jennifer Hills is a woman pushed to the edge, driven to madness, who then re-builds her life and punishes those that deserve it.

I Spit On Your Grave is a must see for horror fans. It’s a movie that will divide audiences but whether you like it or loathe it, it’ll almost certainly stick in your mind for some time afterwards.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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