Published Oct 14, 2010I Spit on Your Grave is a remake of the 1978 grindhouse film of the same name. Both are part of the "rape/revenge" subgenre of exploitation movies. You already know this or else you wouldn't be reading this review. You also already know if you're going to see it. Reviews are supposed to function partly as consumer guides, so consider this your recommendation/warning. With that out of the way, let's move on to my reaction to this film, because honesty is the best policy.
Roger Ebert, who famously called the 1978 film the worst movie he'd ever seen, and who likes this one even less, observes, "In this film, less time is devoted to the revenge and more time to verbal, psychological and physical cruelty against her. Thus it works even better as vicarious cruelty towards women." In the film's punishing first half, a group of men, including a corrupt sheriff and a weak-willed, mentally handicapped man, taunt, pursue, terrorize and gang rape a city woman (Sarah Butler) in some godforsaken Southern town.
Ebert writes: "The true pornography in this film involves the dialogue and situation in the cabin before the physical assault. It is well done. This is a professionally made film. The audience is very, very quiet. Some share Jennifer's terror. Some, I am afraid, may be aroused or entertained by it." The film lingers less on its leading lady's nude body than the 1978 film, but it also, as Ebert notes, spends more time on the men's psychological and verbal cruelty.
This is awfully gruelling stuff and I can honestly say I wished I were anywhere else for most of it. Why does director Steven R. Monroe film the rapes in such obsessive detail? The film certainly doesn't have much worthwhile to say about rape that we don't already know. Monroe's prior credits include such Syfy Channel originals as Ice Twisters and Mongolian Death Worm, so you can be forgiven for questioning his motives. Ebert is correct that certain audience members may derive sick pleasure from these scenes, sadly.
And then there is the second half, in which Butler tortures and kills the men via a series of convoluted death traps worthy of MacGyver. I chuckled a bit at the sheer lunacy of her traps (where did she get all these supplies?), but I'm ignoring the real question, which is how did this make me feel? Well, my honest, unguarded reaction is that I found it satisfying. Stupid as it sounds, I felt the intended catharsis when Butler rammed a shotgun into a certain bodily crevice and made a eunuch out of one of the men with a pair of garden shears. On a certain basic level, I responded to the barbaric sight of Butler administering cold, hard justice to these men. My rational mind is not particularly proud of these feelings, but there they are.
What else can I tell you? If the 1978 film had any meagre value it was in the rough-edged, sun-baked sense of low-budget atmosphere, which this slicker production lacks. I also think Sarah Butler is a forceful, persuasive actress. I can say for certain that a woman going on an implausibly elaborate killing spree after being abused and raped for 40 minutes doesn't strike me as much of a feminist statement, no matter what this franchise's insane defenders will have you believe.
And I can tell you for certain that both the 1978 and 2010 versions might tell you more about yourself than you'll want to know. (Anchor Bay)