While I’m inclined to believe in the inherent goodness of man, I also tend to believe that in each of us is a nugget of darkness, a seed of the foulest evil that simply needs circumstance to water it. Whether it is the extraordinary circumstance of war or simply the addition of anonymity and its accompanying impunity, it sits waiting, purring, like a black cat in front of our heart’s hearth.
“I Spit On Your Grave” is a remake of the highly controversial 1978 film (also known as “Day of the Woman”) and with only minor changes, the plot is the same as the original. A lone woman, Jennifer (Sarah Butler), travels to an isolated cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, she’s captured the attention of a group of local men with ill intentions. Several violent gang rapes later, Jennifer is left for dead and a month later, comes back to take bloody revenge on her attackers. Unlike many other remakes, “I Spit On Your Grave” stays relatively faithful not just to the story, but also to the genre of exploitation films. At first, I spent some time at the beginning of the film lamenting the lack of character development. Then I remembered the kind of movie I was watching: there wasn’t going to be any character development. The point of the exploitation film isn’t to edify us with its art but to shock us with its exploration of taboo. And by exploration, I don’t mean the thoughtful examining of an event but a brutal and raw presentation after which we are left to make our own decisions.
To that end, here are a few observations I made: before the movie began, I noticed a good number of women in the audience. I wondered if they knew what the film was about and would they still be there if they did. I think I found myself surprised by what followed once the movie started. Usually, there is some amount of crowd noise: rustling, shifting, maybe a few whispers. What I heard this time was silence. It was almost as if the audience was holding its breath. By the end, only a few – three to be exact – had walked out and those that remained gave full voiced cheers to the vengeance meted out by our heroine.
As for the movie itself, it is not easy to watch, but it is well acted. Despite playing not much more than caricatures, the ensemble of Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, Jeff Branson, Rodney Eastman, and Andrew Howard do well as all-too-human monsters. Ms Butler, though, gets extra kudos for her fearless performance. It can’t possibly be easy to portray a woman who gets brutalized like she does in this movie, let alone do it convincingly. If there was anything that truly surprised me, it was how slick the movie was. I think a lot of the true brutality I expected was diffused, not just from the humor in the script, but also by the device of one of the attackers carrying a hand cam and seeing the attack through that lens – and its ability to be turned off for a while. Conversely, when Jennifer goes on her rampage, we are party to it, reveling in all its gruesome glory. The kills are fairly creative and cringe worthy, some in ways only a woman could make them.
“I Spit On Your Grave” takes us on a trip through a perverse garden where obscene blossoms spread out showing the worst that lurks deep inside us. It treads no new ground but it does give us a fresh look. Travel it at your own risk.