As a stalwart, lifelong, and insatiable horror fan, I’ve sat through more than my fair share of “rape / revenge” movies. Sometimes I appreciate their points (Irreversible) and other times I find them pretty distasteful (the original I Spit On Your Grave), but there’s little denying that rape can make for one divisive and controversial topic to base your movie on.
As far as horror remakes are concerned, I felt that Dennis Iliadis’ finely-tuned Last House on the Left remake was an improvement on its predecessor in almost every way; I was impressed with how the recent Mother’s Day remake managed to avoid explicit rape altogether while still presenting some unpleasant sexual tension ... so suffice to say that I was both curious and open-minded when approaching Steven Monroe’s new version of I Spit On Your Grave, the mega-sleazy 1978 grindhouse flick that’s still watched, discussed, debated, and vilified to this day. (It’s not a good film.)
Unfortunately neither is the remake, and in some cases it’s even tackier than the original film, and here’s why: when you make a sweaty, leering, vile movie about multiple rapes followed by several bouts of outrageously brutal revenge ... you better be doing it in 1978 for a grindhouse audience. There were tons of flicks like I Spit On Your Grave, but this is the flick (also known as Day of the Woman) that’s managed to stay afloat all these years.
And that’s pretty much the only reason the remake was made: because the title is familiar, the subject matter is salaciously repulsive, and there’s always an audience for movies that deal with the darker, seamier, grungier side of human nature. (Yes, I’m a member of that audience.) But the new version of “Spit” brings absolutely nothing new to the table. If what you’re in the mood for is a series of vicious rape scenes and a bunch of visually-striking but dramatically retarded murder sequences, then perhaps you’ll get a little more “fun” out of this witless, ugly, and unnecessary remake I did.
Seemingly intent on making the viewer feel like a rabid primate, this adaptation believes that all we want is rape and revenge, black and white, bland good vs. outlandish evil. Stuart Morse’s screenplay has no room for shades of gray or concepts that involve moral conflict. We watch five horrible men rape one small woman three times, and then she pops back up and kills them all in ways that would make Jigsaw jealous. Not only are the over-elaborate murder scenes ridiculously unbelievable, but they undercut the true nature of revenge. (A woman this deservedly livid would never bother with such arcane methods; she’d just use a knife.) Which means that the kill scenes are meant to appease and satiate the horror fans’ lust for simple cinematic violence.
Which would be perfectly fine if the film didn’t deal with stark, rancid, ugly rape.
Plus the film reaches a point at which the woman has received so much suffering that NO AMOUNT of crazy-painful revenge would be sufficient ... which means the last thirty minutes of I Spit In Your Grave is little more than a soulless cacophony of random screaming, pleading, and suffering. And while the gory special effects are rather impressive in their own right, they’re being misused in the service of an ugly little retread that’s more than content to follow along in the footsteps of a grindhouse flick that’s probably better left forogtten.
What’s most confusing to me is this: if you’re going to remake I Spit On Your Grave, the title (and the poster and the DVD cover) will be enough to pique a fair amount of interest. Why then did nobody bother to try something just a little different? This is a generic, distasteful, and pointless photocopy of a flick that doesn’t deserve one.