On the eve of the release of the 2010 remake of \'I Spit On Your Grave\' to DVD and Blu-ray (and the re-release of the original 1978 shocker), FILMINK\'s Jack Sargeant let\'s rip on the vagaries of remaking classic, grungy horror.
Meir Zarchi\'s original 42nd Street grindhouse roughie I Spit On Your Grave (1978, aka Day Of The Woman aka The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill) was one of the original video nasties. With its themes of a young woman being repeatedly raped by a quartet of rural psychos and subsequently extracting bloody revenge the film is nothing less than horrific. Part of the seventies cycle of ultra violent films that included the likes of Wes Craven\'s exploitation classic Last House On The Left (1972) and John Boorman\'s more mainstream Deliverance (1972), I Spit On Your Grave was deep in post-\'60s dissolution. The film seemed to be smeared with a palpable sense of grime, depicting a viciously grim world with utterly remorseless nihilism.
Remaking I Spit On Your Grave for a modern audience is an unnecessary activity; while the notoriety of the title may attract a handful of curious viewers it is another pointless retread.
While the original movie was set in upstate New York, this version shifts the action to Louisiana, predictable \'white trash\' villains presumably being the last social group who can still be presented as \'scumbags\' without fear of criticism.
This remake appears to have no apparent understanding of the cultural shifts of the last three decades, merely retracing the same narrative trajectory as the first film, although with notably less violence. The brutality of the 1978 film was viciously upstaged by Gaspar Noe\'s brilliant Irreversible (2002), a movie in which the central rape scene was (and remains) one of the most disturbing ever committed to celluloid. Irreversible\'s unflinching depiction of sexual violence does not allow the viewer to look away. However, this remake of I Spit On Your Grave does not engage with the complexities associated with the \'realistic\' representation of rape post-Irreversible. Instead the emphasis is simply on familiar horror-movie style, realised here via perpetually moving camerawork and editing that effectively distances the audience from the horror. This transforms something that should be harrowing to witness into something that is too generically familiar and too easy to watch (or look away from). The occasional inclusion of shots from a rapist\'s camcorder merely creates an ultimately dull and clichéd film-within-a-film perspective that further distances the audience from what should be traumatic events.
Similarly, the revenge scenes are too beholden to the post-Saw fascination with elaborate and exaggerated torture scenarios, making an adolescent fantasy of retribution and once again avoiding the raw brutal power of the original Spit. The transformation of a raped and battered woman into a killer was a central part of the power of Zarchi\'s film, but in the post-Saw world her ready ability to dispatch the rapists is not questioned, she simply can, apparently possessing both the technical skills and the mental focus necessary for killing the rapists. What (admittedly vague) moral questions there were in the original are simply ignored here.
Ultimately, this film lacks the sense of brutal abjection and unending nastiness of the original. Removing the unpleasant stink that made the first film so important, transforming it into a far more simple film that merely seeks to entertain rather than shock or upset its audience, cleaning up a movie that was always better dirty.
Both versions of I Spit On Your Grave are released to DVD and Blu-ray on March 16.