Wednesday, February 09, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave and Changing Perspectives: A Movie Review

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*Here be some minor spoilers.

Director: Steven R. Monroe.

Writer: Meir Zarchi and Stuart Morse.

In case you have not heard, Anchor Bay Entertainment's latest film, I Spit on Your Grave, is a remake of another film of the same name. The first film released in 1978 as a female empowerment piece, while the second offers fewer messages and more torture. This latest title released on DVD and Blu-Ray February 8th and this film is a hard watch, but valuable for showing a smooth transformation of protagonists, in the second half. Also, the performance by Sarah Butler is sure to make her a rising horror starlette.

This tale follows the ancient saying of an eye for an eye, as one single woman travels south for a remote stay in a quiet cabin. How many horror films are situated in isolated cabins? 60%? Moving along, Jennifer Hills makes a mistake by telling the local yokels about her location and plans. Later, a swarm of hillbillies are soon at her door gun in hands. A brutal rape ensues.

This second film follows much of the same plot as the original. However, there are some differences here. The first film showed gratuitous violence perpetrated towards the female characters mostly, but this second film is much more cruel to the male characters. Once Jennifer recovers from her attack, she is quickly offing the villains with creative devices. Lye bath anyone? Also changed is the introduction of an authoritative character who is not out to help, but to hinder. Other differences are rampant; yet, these two changes stuck out the most.

Jennifer Hills is not the only character raped in this film. One man is placed in a humiliating position with a intrusive shotgun. Hills also moves to the backdrop in the middle part of the film, with the local lowlifes showing the standard on incompetency. Their laxness is repaid by a visit from Hills and this is not a friendly, nor peaceful reunion.

Sarah Butler is truly an excellent actress. On a brief aside, here is a general request for chosen actresses to be 100+ pounds. The emaciated look of many actresses e.g. Jennifer Connolly, Butler and others is not desirable by at least one movie reviewer. Carrying on, Butler shows an intelligence by using understatement in her smiles, her concern and in her viciousness. This must have truly been a challenging role for her, as much of the second act involves her nudity, or her in tortuous scenes. This will surely be a stepping stone for her and Butler's moviemaking career. In the pause between now and your next film, please eat a meal or two!

Finally, one other film element of note is the gentle transition of central characters. Hills is forefront early, but then she slips into the backdrop for a good twenty minutes. This is an interesting move by the creators and the change puts the emphasis squarely on the villains, in the latter half. Here, they are stalked, hunted, and tortured. While revenge is never a good social strategy, the teasing and final coup de grace comes squarely from the point-of-view of the malefactors. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun says that the first half of the film is from the males' perspective: "it implicitly assigns us the POV of the men as they taunt and terrorize Jennifer in plausible ways." This is incorrect, as Jennifer is followed by the camera primarily in the first thirty minutes to fourty-five minute threshold, while becoming a minor character in the final scenes. This transition of characters from the beginning and into the end shows all of the characters as being multi-dimensional. This is a benefit for the audience.

If you can get through some of the early, brutal, soul wrenching sexual assault scenes, then I Spit on Your Grave turns into a twisting, entertaining revenge film. The acting is excellent, the production values are high, and the film is simply a good time. Do not think too long on the messages of revengeful violence, but enjoy this film for its juxtapositioning of central characters. Released on DVD and Blu-Ray as of February 8th, this is a recommendable film for taking on some difficult subject matter and running the story to a very violent conclusion.

Overall: 7 out of 10 (this film is being released in an unrated version, so consider this an NC-17 film for disturbing violence, cruelty and nudity).

The film's homepage is here:

I Spit on Your Grave Official Website

Roger Ebert reviews this film and he gives this title zero stars. However, notice how much time he spends reviewing this title. This is the longest review that this horror film lover has ever seen Ebert write:

I Spit on Your Grave Reviewed by Roger Ebert

The film is available now through Amazon:

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