The original ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ became the equivalent of a cinematic triple-dog dare for many a youngster growing up in the VHS age. When my friends and I got our grubby, teenaged, perverted paws on a copy, we made an event of it. Parents gone, basement viewing, lights out, feigned machismo: all was in place for this taboo screening.
As it progressed, one by one, we began to unceremoniously bow out, despite our lust for blood and boobies. We could endure hours of Jason plucking the limbs off campers or Michael stabbing his way through another Halloween, but this one just didn’t sit right with any of us. We ultimately decided to make a pact to just watch “the circumcision scene,” wince mightily, and be done with it.
Director Steven Monroe’s remake follows the same, bare-bones premise: girl stays at remote cabin, gets brutally raped by local hillbillys, astonishingly survives, exacts revenge in with equal brutality. He’s tidied things up a bit, worked with a healthy new budget (spent mostly on blood, prosthetic severed body parts, and squishy sound effects). Original director Meir Zarchi was apparently involved heavily in this as well, but it calls into question as to why he — or anyone else — felt this film was worthy of being remade.
It’s not as though there needed to be a stronger statement made, if there is one at all. My fear is that it exists only to create a new endurance-test flick (“Oh. Hi ‘A Serbian Film!'”) that is made only to for those who might somehow be searching for even more realism. It exists for those who want the rape to seem more brutal, and for the revenge to appear that much more authentic in its series of murders.
For those numbed by the “Saw” franchise’s elaborate death sequences, Monroe crafts a number of intricate revenge kills. But at its core, it’s using rape as its main marketing tool (sorry, not buying the “empowerment” argument). One need look no further than the film’s poster to see that it teases with a panty-clad backside on prominent display. While her assault in the film is seemingly endless, why don’t they show a close-up of her bruised, tear-stained face on the poster (a la Naomi Watts in “Funny Games”) if they had a true statement about it to make.
Ultimately, it’s just another excuse to ratchet up, gloss over and repackage a product for no reason other than commercial. It’s too polished to be an homage to exploitation, and the fact that it uses rape as its central bargaining chip makes it that much more icky.