Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Tracey Walter, Mollie Milligan, Saxon Sharbino, Amber Dawn Landrum
Written by: Stuart Morse, based on a screenplay by Meir Zarchi
Directed by: Steven R. Monroe
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong sadistic brutal violence, rape and torture, nudity and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 05/01/2010

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Spit' Parts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This remake of Meir Zarchi's notorious 1978 film I Spit on Your Grave undoubtedly came about because of the cynical mining of back-catalogs of horror movies for money. But thanks to director Steven R. Monroe, and a game cast, the remake packs the same kind of punch as the original.

Sarah Butler stars as Jennifer Hills (even her name has sexual connotations), a sexy writer who rents a remote cabin to work on her new book. Unlike the protagonist in the original film, Jennifer dresses in tight, sexy clothes (jeans, running pants, and shorts). She attracts the attention of four lowlifes at a gas station, and she inadvertently embarrasses the alpha male of the bunch, Johnny (Jeff Branson).

Things are exacerbated with the developmentally disabled Matthew (Chad Lindberg) fixes her toilet and she kisses him in gratitude. The boys decide that she's a snooty city girl who thinks that she's too good for them. So the descend upon her house and begin to torment her. She escapes and calls the cops; sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard) arrives, and proceeds to join his buddies. They rape Jennifer in the most horrific ways imaginable; she lurches through the woods, falls into the river and disappears.

Some time later, Jennifer re-appears like a wraith, taking her revenge on the men, one by one. She ties one guy's head to a tree, slips fishhooks through his eyelids, and lets the crows eat his eyeballs. Let's just say that she was being extra nice to that guy because the others suffer much, much worse fates.

This is really primal stuff. First, it's unimaginable that something so horrible could actually happen and that human beings could perpetrate it. And the second unimaginable thing is that Jennifer's equally violent revenge feels totally justified. I have a feeling that the movie's detractors are simply resisting this emotional response, this sympathetic affiliation with Jennifer by any means necessary.

The remake isn't quite as offbeat as Meir Zarchi's original, but it's certainly more brutal, perhaps more cartoonishly so. (Zarchi is here as an executive producer; it's his first credit since he directed his second and last movie in 1985, Don't Mess with My Sister!)

This kind of movie has been made before, aside from Zarchi's original, and it could be argued more effectively: Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960), and its unofficial American remake Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972), as well as the inferior remake of that film, from 2009. Likewise, Jodie Foster made two movies like this, The Accused (1988), for which she won an Oscar, and The Brave One (2007).

And so it goes that the packaging of this material is far more shocking than the material itself; it all depends on how you look at it. But if you look at it the right way, I Spit on Your Grave is powerful stuff, much better to be faced and discussed than dismissed and ignored.

Anchor Bay has released both this and the original on Blu-Ray. The remake comes with a director commentary track, a featurette, deleted scenes, and trailers.

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