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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘I Spit On Your Grave’

September 27, 2010

Fantastic Fest 2010 was host to the first public screening of I Spit on Your Grave: Unrated (2010.)  The film is a remake of the shocking, iconic  1978 movie sometimes known as Day of the Woman.

A lot of people argue that there was no need to remake the film, which to this day is considered one of the most disturbing movies of all time.

So, does the update do the original justice?  Quite simply, it does, and then some.

(Female) producer Lisa Hansen came out to introduce the film to the audience, and she also participated in a Q & A session following the film.

She indicated that over 100 cuts had been made to the movie to try to placate the MPAA, but finally distributor Anchor Bay threw in the towel and decided to  release the movie as unrated.
This is a ballsy movie nowadays, as many large chains won’t even book an unrated film, so that may be why you will have a hard time finding the film in a theater near you.   Kudos to Anchor Bay for sticking to their guns, and director Steven R. Monroe’s vision.

The premise of the movie has remained almost identical to the original.   A fresh scrubbed writer type from the big city has sought out the peace and quiet of an isolated cabin in the woods, hoping to get a jump on writing her second novel.

On her way into the secluded area, she stops at a gas station that is populated with redneck attendants who engage in some awkward sexual innuendo with the girl.

Several days later, she is  assaulted, raped, and left for dead by the sadistic locals, all within the confines of the peaceful cabin.

The idiotic mouth-breathing men high-five one another on their conquest and body disposal, and that’s that.  Or so it seems.

About a month later, the men become tormented by clues left around their domiciles-a flip flop here, a snuff film there.

One by one, the men are tracked down and offed in some truly horrific and creative ways.

The Good:  Sarah Butler.  I suspect that the directors had one hell of a time finding someone to tackle the lead role of victim Jennifer.  It is demeaning, physical, psychologically  grueling, and controversial as hell.

I have no idea if this role will hurt or help Sarah’s career, but her performance blew me away.   Formerly a tv actress, this is a breakout role for her.

I found Sarah’s performance utterly convincing every step of the movie.  Her rape scene is just as gut-wrenching to watch as the original, and her descent into madness and depravity as a direct result of her attack is believable.

Sarah is beautiful and petite, but muscular and fit, allowing her to carry the physical aspects of the film.

Another thing I liked-producer Lisa Hansen removed the sexuality and the seductive element from the revenge portion of the film.  Her reasoning:  ”It just didn’t ring true with me.”

I couldn’t agree more.  One thing that always bothered me about the original was that the protagonist would be able to stomach ever having sex again.

This time, Jennifer relies on her brains and the stupidity of her prey for her master plan to work.  I was more comfortable with this, as it is more of a strong female role who takes matters into her own hands, rather than someone relying on her sexuality, (which further allows her to be sexualized, in my opinion.)

The kills are holy hell horrific.  I sat in a row of men I didn’t know, and they all were clenching their knees together by the end of the screening.

Some kills have been changed, but good lord, this movie is disturbing.  Old iron stomach here felt nauseated  on more than one occasion. Beware.

The Bad: The male actors.  Horrible.  I think it has more to do with the way their characters are written more than anything else, but they are really awful.  The writers have apparently not familiarized themselves with subtlety.

We already know that these are bad guys, but we are beat over the fact early in the movie-hey, they torture animals, so they are super, duper bad.  I could have done without all the “hints” about their character.  The story should have spoke for itself.

The men come across as cartoonish and unbelievable.  Really hurt the story.

I also was uncomfortable with the whole “mentally handicapped man” losing his cherry to Sarah (forcibly.)  I know this character existed in the original, and Lisa stated that they were trying to be true to the original, and not necessarily politically correct.

However, if you changed the seductive aspect of the third act, this should have been changed as well.  Watching actors trying to do “mentally challenged” is embarrassing and unnecessary.

Again, the story could have held its own without playing up this aspect.  For shame.

The Marketing: Boo.  The scene on the poster is never in the movie, this is not a sexual film, and it should not be marketed as a sex kitten male fantasy.

The Ugly (In a good way):  The kills. Chilling.  Disgusting.  Everything you want from  Fantastic Fest.  If you can make it through the first thirty minutes, you will be richly rewarded by a sequence of heinous kills that will make you question your loyalty to the genre.  Seriously.  Not for the squeamish.

The unrelenting violence appears to be mostly practical effects, a welcome aspect of the film.

Men will leave clutching their private parts. As for me, I kind of felt like I got some sick revenge on the man next to me, who happily (and loudly) chomped pizza throughout the entire duration of the rape scene.

I Spit on Your Grave is a worthy update of the disturbing original.  It is gruesome, harrowing, and exactly what you would expect.

I Spit on Your Grave. USA.  Director: Steven R. Monroe.  Starring Sarah Butler, Chad Lindberg, Tracey Walter, Daniel Franzese,  and Jeff Branson.  Release date: October 8, limited release.

Rating 3.5/5


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One Response to “ Fantastic Fest Review: ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ ”

  1. jaime on September 27, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    So i’m a big fan of the 1978 film & i don’t get upset when “they” remake a movie i love,so i’m psyched to see what they do with this one.

    The male actors in these movies are allways bad! I think it’s to raise the female’s upward? or maybe it’s all in the casting?