Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

The Film Rant: I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

The difference between 2010’s most controversial horror films, A Serbian Film and the I Spit On Your Grave remake, is realism. A Serbian Film, considered one of the most controversial and despicable films of all times (and famously cut by 4 minutes by the BBFC), is admittedly a very grotty and disgusting misogynistic horror, but it’s all so ridiculous and rubbish, with terrible rubbery prosthetics and cartoon performances, that the effect is one of disregard rather than shock and outrage. I Spit On Your Grave, a remake of the controversial 1978 rape revenge flick and directed by Steven R. Monroe, is a controversial and despicable film (cut by roughly 30 seconds by the BBFC), but due to its realistic and protracted rape (half the film is the threatening, torture and rape of protagonist Jennifer Hills, played with proficiency by Sarah Butler), as well as utterly disgusting and putrid torture scenes in the second half, I found I Spit On Your Grave to be a much more disturbing, unpleasant and downright sickening film.

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The plot, as basic as they come, involves writer Jennifer moving to a cabin in the woods on her own (yawn), only to run into a group of vicious, woman hating rednecks who break, sexually humiliate her and force their mentally handicapped friend (one of the most offensive portrayals of disability I’ve seen in a long time) to rape her. There’s also a corrupt sheriff (sleazy Andrew Howard) who joins in more of the grisly fun. After a long, long, long rape scene, which borders on the unwatchable, Jennifer manages to escape, in unexplained circumstances, and comes back for revenge, descending into torture scenes that manage to make Hostel look quite pleasant.

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It’s hard to know where to start with I Spit On Your Grave, a film so utterly without merit, it makes Dario Argento’s similar rape revenge effort The Stendhal Syndrome look like fantastic entertainment. Let’s start with the title; the original film (for fairness’ sake, I should point out I have yet to see the original, so I have no idea if it’s a masterpiece or trash) was titled Day of the Woman, before being forced to re-title to the meaningless I Spit On Your Grave, presumably because it sounds nastier. The remake, had it been called Day of the Woman, may have at least aesthetically come across as a more interesting and less gratuitous film; sadly, the filmmakers made the same decision to have an easy sell, giving us another nonsensically titled piece of dirge.

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The first half, which starts so cliché with some rednecks working at a gas station and leads to the rape scene, is just awful. It’s so scuzzy, unpleasant and grimly realistic, it can only be described as anti-tainment. Perhaps I’m wrong, or in the minority, but I don’t want to watch close to an hour’s worth of awful men doing unspeakable things to an innocent woman. Don’t assume I’m saying that you can never show things like rape on-screen, even in horror films; but when The Stendhal Syndrome used similar themes, the scenes in question lasted less than five minutes. Especially offensive are the scenes of the handicapped member of the group being forced to commit acts of rape. Were this a serious, sophisticated drama, this could be forgivable. As setup to post-Saw torture porn? No way.

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The second half, somehow, is even worse than the first, because at least the first had a vaguely realistic feel. Jennifer’s revenge against the rapists is one of the most inept, gratuitous, foul, morally and politically fucked up pieces of film ever recorded. Nobody comes across well or likeable or agreeable or even human. Do we care for the rapists, who previously committed disgusting, hateful acts? Do we care for Jennifer, who witnessed a mentally handicapped man being bullied and degraded by his friends but still decides to kill him, and kills the men in some of the nastiest ways imaginable? I don’t know; I hated everybody involved in the film.

Having seen numerous torture films, I’m used to gore and atrocities, but I Spit On Your Grave made me want to take a cold show. Was I the only person wondering by the end why the two least involved members of the gang clearly suffered the worst punishment, while the two main instigators get off fairly lightly? Faces melted and eyes pecked out by crows seem somewhat worse than…being shot. If you consider yourself squeamish, or, to be honest, even if you don’t, just look away from the screen for the second half of the film. Or, better yet, switch it off.

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I Spit On Your Grave is an awful, awful film. The first half will make you want to turn off the film, and the second half isn’t worth it. Ineptly made (Jennifer’s sudden disappearing/reappearing act is never explained; they probably couldn’t be bothered), mostly poorly acted and offensive on numerous levels, I Spit On Your Grave is one of the worst remakes, horror films and films of the decade. It is a film that gives all the torture films I genuinely love a bad name and negative reviews. If you’re a man, you’ll probably hate the desecration of women, torturing of men and unanimously horrible male characters. If you’re a woman, you’ll hate the protracted rape and evolution of the main female character from victim to horrific inhumane torturer. If you’re not a man, woman or human of good taste, perhaps you’ll enjoy I Spit On Your Grave. I didn’t.

Grade: Fuck this film

By Harry J. Ford

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