This version of I Spit on Your Grave I felt was a little better than the original if only because the cast was far and away a step up though mainly because of a cultural and era difference. As far as exploitation movies go, for which I have said am not a big fan of, this is an OK movie that will certainly meet the approval of fans of the original.
Genre(s): Horror, Suspense, Drama
Anchor Bay | Unrated – 108 min. – $34.99 | February 8, 2011
Directed by: Steven R. Monroe
Writer(s): Meir Zarchi (1978 screenplay); Stuart Morese (screenplay)
Cast: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Tracey Walter, Andrew Howard
Theatrical Release Date: October 8, 2010
Features: Feature Commentary, Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 30.8 GB
THE MOVIE – 3/5
“Sick, reprehensible and contemptible…” – Roger Ebert
The original 1978 version of I Spit on Your Grave (a.k.a. Day of the Woman) prides itself on this quote as a selling point and given Mr. Ebert gave this 2010 remake the same rating (0/4), it would seem it’s going after the same credibility and longevity as its predecessor.
Just to note, in preparation for this review, I did watch the original. I don’t normally do this as I like to take any movie at face value and not base it on how the original version was, but given the controversy I felt it was necessary to at least have a baseline in how this compares.
I didn’t particularly care for the original but not necessarily due to the brutality of it all but because I’ve never been a fan of the horror exploitation that was popular among independent filmmakers in the 70s and 80s which includes cheesy and plain terrible acting and a slower pace that doesn’t offer anything in terms of teasing or suspense. This 2010 revamped version follows the same structure and tendencies of the 1978 edition but I did find it more than marginally better primarily based on the lead actress.
The story is basically the same: Young city gal Jennifer (SARAH BUTLER) is a successful writer headed up to a remote cabin in the woods for some peace and quiet as she writes her next novel. She gets lost along the way and stops by a local gas station to get gas and directions. That’s one mistake. The attendant is a cocky ladies man – with cheesy pick-up lines in tow – named Johnny (JEFF BRANSON) but Jennifer doesn’t fall for any of it and in the process manages to embarrass him in front of his two buds (DANIEL FRANZESE, RODNEY EASTMAN). Mistake number two.
After getting set up at the house Jennifer goes for a jog (wearing skimpy clothing, of course) and comes across an abandoned, defunct house and even though she’s out-of-the-womb new to this area, she decides to explore it some before going back onto the path. I know foreshadowing is a must for a thriller but at least try to disguise it! Before this, on a windy night, she hears the door slamming on the storage barn, goes to check it out, turns on the light inside and sees some nasty chemicals before locking it up and going back inside.
Anyway, her troubles begin simply enough when the plumbing in the house goes bad and calls in a plumber to come in and fix it. The plumber is a mentally challenged fellow named Matthew (CHAD LINDBERG) and he takes an instant liking to Jennifer (again, wearing her workout outfit). He manages to fix the problem and she gives him a big old kiss after which he scurries away. Oh, before all that? She manages to drop her phone into the toilet thus making the only form of communication obsolete. Mistake three.
Matthew is “friends” with the gas station gang – which includes a voyeur who has been watching Jennifer do choirs in her undies – and for whatever reason they decide they need to teach the city gal a lesson in humility so that night they go to the cabin, taunt her some with various noises outside (yeah, she had to go out onto the porch to check it out…) before getting inside and humiliate her with many degrading acts, one involving sticking gun in her mouth. They then sexually harass her which, later one and adds one more bastard into the mix, rape her multiple times, each one getting a turn in one orifice or the other.
She manages to escape by jumping off a bridge and for the audience also disappears as, after searching in teams, continues on with life. She of course makes a reappearance (unlike the original, we don’t see how) and the revenge begins.
I Spit on Your Grave is just as brutal of a movie as the original but for different reasons. First, the rape scenes are, although horrific, toned way down but that is made up with a far more brutal, almost Saw-like revenge sequences for each of the guys who did her wrong, one escalating from the next. I know some might be uncomfortable with those scenes – and one in particular for guys will indeed be horrific – but I found the rape scenes (multiple) in the original to be far more nauseating to watch.
In doing the comparisons between the two, where this version excels in my mind is because while the rape scene is still harrowing, it’s not as graphic and the final act, albeit takes a page in the Saw franchise, seems a little more intense. Where this version also succeeds is the main actress. I will give major props to Camille Keaton for her performance especially the rape scene but otherwise she’s fairly ordinary while Sarah Butler seems to have more command and strength with her version. I think I believed in her vengeance more for some reason, probably because she has more stage presence that Keaton.
The film also is helped, and I realize this is why the original has cult status, because the acting all around isn’t hindered by the campiness that plagued certain films of the ‘70s and ‘80s. I won’t say the supporting cast is anything special here, but I felt Chad Lindberg – who I last saw in 2001’s The Fast and the Furious – was effective in what is normally a hammy role (see the original where the actor seemed to be channeling his inner Woody Allen) while Jeff Branson was good as the asshole ladies man.
Directed by Steven R. Monroe – who previously helmed a couple SyFy projects like Ice Twisters and Storm Cell along with several indie flicks – does an admirable job with creating something new while still using the template set forth by the original. The film was executive produced by Day of the Woman writer/director Meir Zarchi so he did have involvement with this edition and seemingly approved it.
Overall, I’m still not fully on board with the exploitation horror movies after experiencing Day of the Woman and Maniac but somehow managed to at least somewhat “enjoy” this version. No doubt it’s not great and I’m some fans of the original may not embrace it, but for what it is, it’s worth checking out.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
Feature Commentary – Director Steven R. Monroe and Producer Lisa Hansen offer up a low-key but still informative track. They start off the commentary explaining where the Unrated version came from due to the many cuts the MPAA said needed to be made to secure an R-rating, which would’ve made a worse movie. The pair then goes into casting and key moments in the movie. There are a few quite moments so it’s not an entirely exhilarating commentary.
The Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Remaking a Cult Icon (16:25; SD) – Filmmakers and cast talk about making I Spit on Your Grave and include comments by executive and original writer Meir Zarchi as well as director Monroe and star Sarah Butler as they talk about the plot and subject matter.
Deleted Scenes (11:43; SD) – These are a collection of scenes that don’t really offer much else to the film as a whole and are mostly filler that connect some scenes (like Jennifer finding the phone number for the local plumber).
Last we get the teaser trailer, two theatrical trailers and a radio spot. Before the movie plays there are previews for I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Frozen, The Killing Machine, Stonehenge Apocalypse and The Disappearance of Alice Creed.
On disc two is a digital copy compatible with iTunes.
VIDEO – 3.75/5
Presented with a 1.78 aspect ratio, I Spit on Your Grave looks good, if not a little unremarkable, in high-def. The biggest positive is that the detail levels from close-ups to foreground objects both were well done while colors, albeit under saturated at times to suit the film’s ambiance, also looks about right. There are no signs of cheap filmmaking here nor any dust and/or scratches. As I said however, it’s not a brilliant looking picture due to the film’s content and drab settings.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is mostly effective from beginning to end. Most of the movie is dialogue driven with Corey Allen Jackson’s score thrown in to up the suspense in certain key scenes but through and through everything is easy to understand while the more action-y sequences provide some depth the experience.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, this version of I Spit on Your Grave I felt was a little better than the original if only because the cast was far and away a step up though mainly because of a cultural and era difference. As far as exploitation movies go, for which I have said am not a big fan of, this is an OK movie that will certainly meet the approval of fans of the original.