I Spit On Your Grave (d. Steven R. Monroe) - When Meir Zarchi's original I Spit On Your Grave was released in 1978, it was met with righteous howls of disgust by not a few people. Most famously, Roger Ebert's review fairly seethed with anger as he judged and found wanting not just Zarchi and his film, but the crowd with whom he saw it:
I wanted to turn to the man next to me and tell him his remarks were disgusting, but I did not. To hold his opinions at his age, he must already have suffered a fundamental loss of decent human feelings. I would have liked to talk with the woman in the back row, the one with the feminist solidarity for the movie's heroine.
There was a tendency at that time for some critics to assume, as they did nothing more than fulfill their professional obligations to see certain extreme horror films so that they could write about them, that the audience that surrounded them was made up entirely of either potential or currently active serial killers (see also Harlan Ellison's comments about going to see The Omen, of all things), and while Zarchi's film remains an entirely unpleasant viewing experience, Ebert's subsequent positive review of Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects makes me question from what angle he really approaches this kind of material. The guy didn't even blush.
The thing about Zarchi's film is that it could not be any less complex about its motives, or what it wants the audience to experience. The lead character (Camille Keaton) is repeatedly, and graphically, beaten and raped by a group of men. This goes on forever, and as hard as it is to watch initially, it only gets harder from there. Then, left for dead, the woman rises up and exacts just-as-brutal revenge on her attackers. Zarchi (who was supposedly inspired to make the film after witnessing a rape, a claim I've always sort of questioned) wants our horror at Keaton's prolonged suffering, followed by our feeling of grim catharsis at her vengeance. The fact that one of her attackers is mentally handicapped only adds some ambiguous spice, something all revenge films must have. And it's all just a terribly uncomfortable parade of atrocity.
So it's I guess maybe a comment on the state of something-or-other today that, when the announcement was made that there was going to be a new I Spit On Your Grave in 2010, the reaction was essentially "Oh, they're remaking that one, too?" If you could take that reaction and somehow translate it into a creative drive, then you'd have director and co-writer Steven R. Monroe's attitude towards that very remake, a film that pulls way back on the level of violence inflicted on its heroine (Sarah Butler) and turns her eventual reign of terror into a series of damn silly Saw-like torture scenes. Whatever else can be said about Zarchi's film, you can't call it silly.
But, you know, one doesn't want to sound as if one is wishing a given film could have contained more rape. Quite frankly, Monroe's film has plenty. It's just that Zarchi's film was a film of two halves -- the rape and revenge killings are inseparable, and are, in fact, all that the movie is. In the remake, rape is the launching pad. All revenge films need to get kicked off somehow, after all, and it's pretty clear that whatever imagination was being delicately portioned out in the making of this new I Spit On Your Grave, it all went to thinking up the bit with the guy who has a shotgun stuck up his ass. And apparently, in the interim between being left for dead and coming back for some scalps, Butler's character has turned into a super detective, because what she's able to pull off -- getting vital information on the private family life of one of her attackers, somehow ensuring that another attacker will step just there right when she needs him to -- is not only impressive, in a stupid sort of way, but never explained. Not that, typically, explanations are needed in a film like this, but some nod in that direction can make absurdity a bit easier to swallow.
So I think maybe I Spit On Your Grave circa 2010 was born out of a certain cynicism. In fairness, if you can score the rights to that title, it must be pretty hard to resist.