BBFC Classification: 18
Director: Steven R. Monroe
Starring: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard, Rodney Eastman, Daniel Franzese, Chad Lindberg
The remake debacle is one that is going to rumble on and, despite the protests of the movie purists out there, the studios are going to keep churning them out (and despite what they tell you, most of the purists will watch the remakes and maybe even secretly enjoy some of them!), so to immediately start bitching about a remake just because it’s a remake is a fairly redundant exercise.
Right, got that out of the way! The modern horror remake can fit into one of three camps – better than the original (The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left), complete drivel (Friday the 13th, The Wicker Man) and a sort of take-the-same-basic-plot-but-make-it-different style (Dawn of the Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). I Spit on Your Grave fits firmly into the latter, taking the basic plot of Meir Zarchi’s notorious 1978 original and filling it out with a few staples of modern horror/exploitation that deliver on the reputation that the films title has built over the years.
Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) is a writer who has rented a log cabin in the middle of nowhere so she can write her next book. After stopping for gas and directions she accidently embarrasses the local hillbilly Johnny (Jeff Branson) that works at the station by spilling a bucket of water on him in front of his gang. Unfortunately for her they now know where she is heading, and after Matthew (Chad Lindberg), one of Johnny’s gang and not the sharpest knife in the rack, comes to fix her broken toilet, the posse – rounded out by harmonica-playing Andy (Rodney Eastman) and video camera fanatic Stanley (Daniel Franzese) – break into her cabin and subject her to a series of humiliating and abusive attacks that culminate in her being raped multiple times before being left for dead.
In a burst of inner strength and unwilling to give her tormentors the satisfaction of finishing her off, Jennifer manages to get to her feet and throws herself into the nearby river. Believing her to be dead the men return to their lives and forget about what they did, until one day a vengeful Jennifer returns to wreak her revenge in the most painful ways possible…
As was pointed out earlier, the basic plot is the same as the original but there are a few differences that, in some ways, make it a more shocking experience but in other ways don’t add very much at all. The rape scene is less visually brutal than in the original – where everyone was naked and the shot was wide so we didn’t miss a thing – but unsettling (as all rape scenes are, of course) enough that it just confirms what we as an audience thought of these vile characters in the first place. Of course, what would be the point of having a violent rape scene if we didn’t get the retribution that comes with the startling and uncomfortable revenge that plays out the last act of the movie?
Where the original had a more graphic rape scene and less graphic, almost implied, violence for the pay-off, this version flips that dynamic around and gives us possibly some of the most disturbing visuals that have hit our screens in recent times, and considering that the high gore content of films like Saw and Hostel is now pretty mainstream, that’s really saying something. Foregoing the ‘less is more’ philosophy that all the best horror films adhere to, this gives you everything and is all the better for it. In the original the rapists, although fairly unrepentant, do give the odd look or expression here and there to suggest guilt at what they’re doing, but here nobody – apart from Matthew – shows any remorse whatsoever, so when the gang get their comeuppance there is very little room for any sympathy. Considering the punishments that Jennifer dishes out, feeling nothing for these characters is quite unnerving but the pay-off is that justice has been served.
Overall, I Spit on Your Grave makes for some interesting viewing; ‘enjoyable’ isn’t a word that feels comfortable to use, but it is certainly one of the better remakes out there. Well acted and shot, there are enough new twists to make it different from the original (there are five memebers to this redneck gang, but you’ll just have to watch it to see how that plays out) and the final act just has to be seen to be believed – fish hooks, hungry birds, shotgun rapes, a bath full of Lye and a re-enactment of the infamous castration scene from the original are just some of the delights that are shown in all their glory. Don’t say you weren’t warned…
Special Features: The Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Remaking a Cult Icon featurette, teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, radio spot.
UK Release Date: 7th February 2011