August 1, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

"A writer who is brutalized during her cabin retreat seeks revenge on her attackers, who left her for dead."

As you know, I've seen a lot of nasty stuff in my time both in horror films and in real life, but it still didn't quite prepare me for how brutal the "I Spit on Your Grave" remake was going to be. If you've ever seen the original 1978 version, you'll already know exactly what I'm going to say, but honest to God, the remake makes that film look very dated and tame in comparison.

There are several things which I dislike seeing depicted in horror films and rape is one of them. The problem with any rape scene is that it's either going to be so nasty that you feel sick or so titillating that it makes you (if you are male) aroused for all the wrong reasons. "I Spit on Your Grave" does both. At the end of the day, it's only acting to achieve an emotional response from the viewer. "I Spit on Your Grave" certainly achieved that.

I'm not going to get into any of those arguments about how the film depicts attitudes towards women, feminism or any of that other gibberish which essay writers and serious film critics worry themselves to death about because, for me, "I Spit on Your Grave" did exactly what it set out to do. It shocked me and it entertained me. It even horrified me on more than one occasion. The only thing which "I Spit on Your Grave" didn't do was scare me, but it wasn't designed to.

The problem is, as with any exploitation movie, that the inclusion of an attractive girl makes all the difference. Sarah Butler who played Jennifer is undeniably gorgeous, and it changes the way you look at her character. If she had been a much plainer actress the rape would have been far more awful to watch even though it was pretty damned terrible and disgusting as it was. Of course, it makes you feel like a voyeur, but technically, we are all guilty of that anyway. Did "I Spit on Your Grave" make me feel like a pervert for watching? Yes it did. But do I care? No.

The rape in "I Spit on Your Grave" is right up there with the one in "Irreversible" (2002) for nastiness, and totally eclipses the original version in every way. It's far more gritty and realistic, and you really do feel Jennifer's pain and hopelessness in the situation. It doesn't matter if you are male or female (or what your sexual orientation is), you'll feel angry at what is being done. But, at the same time, it's impossible to watch this without feeling morally dirty. You really don't want to see this, but it's just too compelling to turn away.

Last night, I heard quite a well known internet podcast go into a lot of depth about "I Spit on your Grave" which is all well and good except that I think the host is a bit of jerk who hates new movies just for the sake of having something to talk about. His whole opinion of "I Spit on Your Grave" was negative. Although I'll agree with him that there was no artistic value to remaking "I Spit on Your Grave" (or any other remake for that matter), I don't care about any of that. I deal with each film based on its own merits and whether or not it actually works. I also don't care about reading anything political or otherwise into a horror movie either as, to me, none of them are artistic in the more common sense of the word for it to even matter to anyone.

"I Spit on Your Grave", like all movies, is a product designed to entertain and be so entertaining that you are willing to part with your money to see it. It isn't a piece of propaganda to indoctrinate or even educate its audience any more than a fairy tale would. As such a product, the film works perfectly as it is very entertaining. What kind of entertainment can be derived from it is, however, still down to the audience on a purely individual and subjective level.

I love horror. I like to watch the most horrible things possible for no good reason at all except that I think I must just be wired that way. I'm not going to psychoanalyse myself on my own blog, but I know that my responses to a horror movie like this are going to be a lot different to those of a more average moviegoer. I also know the difference between reality and fiction, and how the willing suspension of disbelief works. When the film ends so does any emotional or intellectual connection that I had with it for the previous 90 minutes (or, in this case, 108 minutes).

"I Spit on Your Grave" followed all the Aristotelian rules for drama except for unity of time, and everything that it presented dramatically was designed to bring out emotions and the catharsis of those emotions. (Yes, I am classically trained, in case you ever wondered.)

The revenge section of this film seemed uneven compared to the amount of time spent on the rape, but there's very little in it. I'm not going to give spoilers, but each of Jennifer's set pieces of revenge are highly satisfying and truly provided the catharsis I needed. Each of her attackers receives poetic justice of the most violent, gory and torturous kind, and I loved every minute of it. I just wish that it had gone on longer.

You'll find a lot of people hating the retribution in "I Spit on Your Grave" just because they wish to appear morally superior and politically correct. I ask you though, when has horror ever been politically correct? Bad things happen to good people and bad people sometimes get their comeuppance, but it doesn't happen all the time. In "I Spit on Your Grave", justice is served very well done indeed.

If you are looking for faults then of course the five hillbillies are nothing but stereotypes, and so was their victim until she turned into a somewhat far-fetched, sadistic killing machine with no real explanation of how she got that way, but this is a horror film not an arty-farty piece of nonsense designed to win an Academy Award. If there were Oscars for horror films though, "I Spit on Your Grave" would certainly deserve a nomination.

The acting in this film is superb, especially when you discover that the actors only had two weeks to learn their parts between when they were cast and filming began. The camerawork is not quite so hot as it appears to be handheld, but it still works quite effectively. Whether through luck or judgement (although I'm sure it was intentional), it makes you feel closer to the action, as if you are actually there, not that you'd ever want to be in reality.

I really can't heap enough praise on "I Spit on Your Grave" without turning into the kind of fanboy that I despise, but I really enjoyed it. It won't haunt me later like it might some people who would be hoping, as a line from "The Inbetweeners" once asked, "Is it possible to unsee something?"

I'm glad that I watched "I Spit on Your Grave", and I'm very pleased that it was a remake as there's often far too much snobbery over remakes in the horror community. I've even been guilty of it myself over the reboots of certain famous franchises, but they really did deserve it. If a remake turns out to be an improvement on the original then I see nothing wrong with it.

I recommend that you all watch this film (and the original) for yourselves. Compare and contrast them, and then come back to me and tell me that I'm right. I am so sick to death of reviewers hating horror movies based on trendy opinions rather than objective appraisals. When something this effective comes along, it shouldn't even be analysed though. "I Spit on Your Grave" should simply be embraced and enjoyed for what it is.

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