Toronto After Dark: I Spit on Your Grave Review

I Spit on Your Grave

Director: Steven R. Monroe
Writers: Meir Zarchi (1978 screenplay), Stuart Morse, , Jeffrey Reddick
Producers: Lisa Hansen, Paul Hertzberg,
Starring: Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running time: 107 min.

On a personal level based off of subject matter:
For those who enjoy rape/revenge films:

Toronto After Dark

I am having trouble coming up with a film that is harder to provide a concise review of that doesn’t just delve into how I feel about the subject matter or what is right or wrong to show in a film. I will be putting up another post in the near future where we can actually try to delve into that a bit but for this post, I want to mostly deal with whether I Spit on Your Grave is a strong revenge film.

The basic plot is that Jennifer (Sarah Butler) is a lone female author who heads off to a secluded cabin in order to write her next novel. On the way to the cabin she stops off for gas and has a quick run in with Johnny (Jeff Branson) and his friends. Nothing really comes out of the run in right away but later on Johnny and friends invade Jennifer’s cabin. What proceeds next is about 10-20 minutes of extremely disturbing and uncomfortable as they proceed to humiliate and eventually rape Jennifer. Eventually it is time to get rid of Jennifer but she manages to slip through their fingers. A month or so later Jennifer returns and extracts vengeance against her attackers.

In order to be successful, a movie like I Spit on Your Grave needs to have good acting. If the acting is poor you will not be drawn into the film and you will not care whether or not the revenge is given. The acting in the film is indeed good. Sarah Butler is completely believeable. Jeff Branson is quite menacing but I particularly enjoyed the performance given by Chad Lindberg who plays Matthew. Matthew is a mentally challenged who is forced to be involved with the attack and rape. We all know Matthew’s fate is sealed but one can’t help but pity him.

Without a doubt, I Spit on Your Grave is a very strong entry in the revenge film genre. It is gripping and terrifying for the run of the film. It also provides a large amount of catharsis for the viewer which is strongly needed after having to sit through the initial rape and brutality. The violence returned upon the attackers does not feel silly even though it is some of the most brutal nasty violence that I have seen in the past few years. The audience at Toronto After Dark groaned, laughed and cheered its way through the scenes of Jennifer’s vengeance.

I have not seen the original 1978 film and other than having a morbid curiousity and wanting to be somewhat of a completionist with my film going experience I won’t be rapidly seeking it out. Having seen the remake I am quite content to believe from everything that I have heard. The main problem most people have with the original is that Jennifer seduces her victims after the attack. This is a diservice to the brutality and how someone might react. The remake is much smarter in that it turns Jennifer into more of a force of nature that just can not be stopped.

You may have noticed that I gave this film two ratings. This movie is not for me but I can’t help but enjoy the skill with which I Spit on Your Grave was made. This is why I gave it the lower yet still good rating of 3 1/2 stars out of 5. If you are a fan of the original or enjoy similar movies then there is no way you will not walk away thoroughly entertained with the film. It provides the audience with some of the most brutal violent kill scenes, it is filmed beautifully and is both terrifying and yet still provides the catharsis needed to make it a success.

8 Comments

  1. Most of the criticism of the original film that I've seen had to do with the rape scene itself, which was so protracted as to be almost pornographic in nature. The seduction aspect to the following revenge was distasteful, but the opening itself was so brutal and lengthy, that many people questioned whether the revenge acts in the film were merely a justification for filming a 30-minute rape scene.

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  2. The remake definitely does not shy away from the rape but it also does not get right down into showing every single body part. There is a large part of the rape scene that is all just psychological tormenting. If we hadn't had movies like SAW and HOSTEL then I could see people saying the opposite of for the remake. The revenge acts are extremely brutal.

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  3. I could not disagree more. The film was technically fine, but empty and vile, reframing rape as entertainment, not really saying much of anything besides, 'hey audience – this subject matter is easy, fist-pumping multiplex fodder'

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  4. Like you, I also have not seen the original film. I was, however, very disappointed to not be at TAD for this screening as I've been looking forward to it for some time. I'm not a fan of rape / revenge films (considering most are garbage), but I had heard intriguing things.

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  5. Well, the "kills" in the second half of the movie certainly are inventive and very well realized, but you do have to endure that opening section…I suppose that if you are going to want your protagonist to be REALLY pissed off and create nasty ways to bump off her targets, you want her to have really good reason – but it doesn't make that opening section any more enjoyable to actually experience. The amount of degradation she goes through is pretty damn awful and stretches longer than I felt necessary. You could say that the revenge at the end is satisfying, but for me it just wasn't worth the trip.

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  6. I thought this film was trash. Here is my review on IMDB

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1242432/usercomments-

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

    I just saw the free screening. I'm glad I didn't pay to see it. Yes, it's that bad. It is utterly pointless, horridly acted trash, a good definition of pornography.

    Now I know we don't go into a film called I Spit On Your Grave expecting Oscar worthy performances or brilliant dialogue, but we also don't go into such a movie expecting to yawn, which is what I did at least a couple of times. I saw the original back in 1978 at a Drive-In. Despite how controversial it was and how Roger Ebert ripped on it, I always thought of it as a really well made motion picture. The acting is decent, the atmosphere is creepy and the minimalist plot is well written. The original film engages because we believe the characters are human and we believe something this horrible could actually happen. This is not the case with the remake.

    There are some major flaws that make this one too implausible to enjoy. Discussing the flaws of a movie with a plot that goes no farther than "men rape woman / woman kills men" cannot be done without including spoilers, so if you really care that much about the details of the rape and murders, stop reading this review.

    First of all, the men in this movie are so immoral and have such a lack of conscience that they can't be related to whatsoever. In the original, Jennifer comes back to actually seduce the men before she murders them, and this is very telling about the men's characters. The fact that she can seduce them shows us how utterly screwed up they are, that they have convinced themselves Jennifer actually got some pleasure out of her rape and even wants some more. This made them somewhat complex characters, perhaps victims of a macho society, which allowed us to feel for them on some small level, making the revenge that is enacted upon them that much more brutal. However, in this crappy remake, the rapists are absolutely one dimensionally evil, making them pretty much inhuman objects and causing the retribution against them to be highly unsatisfying. Plus, in this remake, a fifth rapist has been added to the plot—the county sheriff no less. A sheriff with a wife and young daughter joins in on the sadistic torture of a young woman and we are offered no motivation for this, other than of course he's a redneck, so he must like to participate in forced anal sex, a standard set by the movie Deliverance. And all of this takes place as if it is daily routine, with no regrets or remorse. The character of the sheriff is so unbelievable that it subtracts from the film as a whole.

    Another big flaw is the Jennifer character herself. In the original movie, she goes back to the city, recovers (an important aspect because then the revenge she seeks is much more premeditated), becomes empowered and returns to the scene of the crime to murder the villains. She arises as a hero because we get the sense that what she is doing is not merely personal revenge, but something that is necessary in order to keep something like that from happening to someone else, like putting a rabid dog down. But in the remake, we are suppose to believe that Jennifer dives into some water, magically disappears (was she a swimming champ?), is not seen for a month (during which she is supposedly living in an abandoned shack eating rats and snakes I suppose), and then suddenly comes out of the woods to enact a very intricate series of torturous murders. And she doesn't seduce her rapist into the bathtub to cut off the offending member, she relies on the old Hollywood cliché of whacking him over the head with a tire iron so that he conveniently passes out for an hour without a struggle, sort of like a cartoon character does, as this frail women who was beaten and raped and has been living in the woods for a month somehow drags him away and props him up into a contraption straight out of Saw part whatever. All of this is so unbelievable that by the time the brutality begins we don't really care. It is very hard to get any satisfaction out of a revenge film when it isn't taking place in the real world.

    And about the revenge murders. They are way too literal. The guy obsessed with her teeth gets his teeth pulled out. The guy with the video camera gets his eyes plucked out. The guy who gives us the gratuitous anal sex scene gets a shotgun shoved up you know where. This Jennifer hasn't recovered. She's not empowered. She's become her assailants. Her revenge is not for the protection of the world; it's for the ego of the screenwriter. There is nothing shocking about the murders because we don't care about the characters and we don't believe Jennifer could pull them off to begin with.

    In the absence of good acting, believable plot and character development, what we are left with is about two hours of brutal rape and torture. That's not filmmaking. That's just lazy. That's just trash. As audiences become more and more desensitized to this kind of trash, where is the future of horror films headed? Rape in 3D? After the long drawn out rape scene, the woman sitting next to me got up and left the theater. For a moment, I thought it was because she was so shocked by what she had just witnessed, but in a few minutes she returned with an order of nachos. You just have to wonder.

    If you want to see a really creepy, well-acted movie about a young woman exacting revenge on a sexual deviant, watch Hard Candy, an extremely well written and believable film. I Spit On Your Grave (Unrated) is pure garbage compared to that.

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  7. "After the long drawn out rape scene, the woman sitting next to me got up and left the theater. For a moment, I thought it was because she was so shocked by what she had just witnessed, but in a few minutes she returned with an order of nachos. You just have to wonder."

    This is exactly how I feel the new I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is wrong. It's now just 'another multiplex film' ala SAW-x and has all the spit and polish on top of reframing rape as mass-entertainment with little else to say. At least the original had the 'indie-shiester-producer' trash-vibe going for it. The new one is sadly just glossy pre-packaged torture-porn.

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  8. Interesting Article. The film was okay, but not great. I agree with your 3.5 rating. A better story than the ones you mentioned is probably LADY LAWBREAKER by G.J. Fuller. In that one the woman’s motive is survival, not revenge, and her enemies are murderers. You can find it at amazon.com. Another female-driven revenge flick is The Hand that Rocks The Cradle. For the best one, I would recommend Lady Lawbreaker

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