Monday, February 14, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave

A little over thirty years ago in 1978, a little known movie, I Spit on Your Grave, was made and received cult status over the years as a feminist revenge movie. Growing up, as I started loving horror movies, I had always seen this film in the shelves of local video rental shops. I never bothered renting it, not because I had no intention, but because I simply overlooked it.

Five or six years ago, I finally placed it in my Netflix queue and moved it to the top to have it shipped to me a few days later.

I popped it in and watched it…horrified.

Firstly, the movie played out like some old pornography show, especially seeing how the actors spoke and the way they dressed gave it that air. But seeing that this was a 70s movie, I understood.

I’ll explain the movie like Roger Ebert put it: a writer rents a cabin so that she can write her new novel in peace, but as she’s sunbathing one day, four local men take her away to rape and beat her multiple times. She’s left alone at her cabin afterwards to recuperate and goes back to the men to take her revenge.

Watching that old film was tough, I couldn’t believe some of the things that went on and how stupid some of the things played out, like how she brought one of the men back to the cabin to seduce him. Did he really think she was into him after he beat ad raped her days before? Better yet, how could she bring herself to seduce him?

Yet, it was the 1970s and only a few years before, Wes Craven directed the catchy-titled The Last House on the Left, which had a similar theme as I Spit on Your Grave. So plot holes such as those would go unnoticed.

When I heard that I Spit on Your Grave was being remade, I couldn’t help but remember the 1978 version I had watched a few years prior, thinking that it wouldn’t work. But then I got to thinking that if they would rewrite it intelligently, making it more realistic and modern, then maybe it can work and be something worth watching.

I actually entered the date on my calendar for when it was to be released in theaters, but it was a limited release and didn’t show up anywhere near my city. It’s probably a good thing anyway, because I think this movie would’ve been uncomfortable to watch in public, especially since I usually travel to the theaters alone (my wife does not enjoy the movies I like to watch). I remembered squirming during quite a few scenes of The Devil’s Rejects, even as a few women left the theater because of those scenes.

So when I Spit on Your Grave was released on DVD, I entered it into my Netflix queue, scooted it up to the top and awaited the delivery shortly after, which happened to be this past weekend.

Now, it was still an uncomfortable film to watch, especially having to pause the movie every time my wife walked into the room; but if the remake was anything like the original, I knew there’d be a point to all of it.

In this one, we have a young woman, Jennifer (played by Sarah Butler), who’s an author working on her next novel. She’s a beautiful girl, looking in her twenties, and she’s traveling alone to a cabin in the woods. Jennifer receives the keys from the caretaker, as well as directions via his scribbled map, and heads off to the cabin. She stops for gas and is greeted by the creepy stares of a couple of guys (one playing a harmonica) just sitting behind the station and creepily staring at Jennifer. The station attendant, Johnny (played by Jeff Branson), appears and Jennifer asks him for directions to the road leading to the cabin. He asks if she’s staying at the well-known cabin and Jennifer unwisely says that she is. After she leaves, Johnny’s upset that the “city girl” didn’t accept his advances. Later on, Johnny and his friends decide to pay Jennifer a visit.

The remake pretty much plays on like the original and it’s no secret what happens in the beginning and at the end. However, the script here is smarter and doesn’t include unrealistic plots or subplots. Everything you see is frightfully believable and makes you cringe. The new film adds a new element to the story which makes it a bit more frightening, if you can believe that, because the original, I’m sure, will make any woman cringe and any man want to jump through the screen to kill these guys.

Of course, as you’re watching Jennifer get her revenge, you kind of set aside the wonderment of how she was able to plan all this out and how she was able to execute each revenge without a hitch. You’re just involved in it and silently cheering for her that you forget about that. But we do get a bit of foreshadowing of each plan. For example, we see the camera pan through the shed and pause at the container of lye.
As unpleasant a subject matter this movie is, I thoroughly liked it and would definitely see this again. Even though you have to sit through the cruel humiliating scenes Jennifer goes through, as well as the beating and raping she receives, it’s needed in this film to warrant the revenge in the third act.

A nice piece of trivia: one of Johnny’s creepy friends, Andy, is played by Rodney Eastman. Rodney is known for playing Joey, the teenager who doesn’t speak until the end, in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

My final “bit” on I Spit on Your Grave? Aside from it seeming like an exploitive movie, I think it was a disturbing movie that may serve some purpose. For one, a twenty-five year-old woman (or man, for that matter) should not travel to some remote cabin by herself. Like I said, the rape scenes were a bit much and will make the average audience feel very uncomfortable, but the plotted out revenge will make anyone cheer after seeing what our heroine went through. Bottom line, however, is that this woman will not live happily ever after because she went through some shit that will fuck up her life for good. It’s definitely re-watchable and I’d say add this to your movie collection. Just watch it alone...for it's not a movie you can watch with a bunch of your friends.

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