I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
-Review by Nic Brown-
There are some films that are not easy to watch. Most of the time films in that category are simply poorly made with little story or unconvincing performances. However, sometimes, if the film deals with a controversial subject then it may be hard to watch for the opposite reason, the story seams too real, the performances too convincing. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, the 2010 remake of the controversial 1978 grind house classic, is a case in point.
The story, at least on the
surface, is a simple one. Novelist Jennifer Hill (Sarah
Butler) comes to a small town in rural
During her first few days in the
cabin Jennifer finds it to be the ideal place to write and relax.
But, she doesn’t know that one of Johnny’s friends, Stanley (Daniel
Franzese), has been secretly stalking her and taking video of her
undressing. Later, a mentally challenged handy man, Matthew (Chad
Lindberg), comes to fix the young woman’s toilet when it backs up.
She’s so excited by Matthew getting her water restored that she
gives him a friendly peck of a kiss. Unfortunately for Jennifer,
Matthew also hangs around with Johnny and his timing for telling his
friends what happened couldn’t be worse. Between watching
--NOTE SPOILERS, skip to the last paragraph to avoid them--
The three of them and another friend, Andy (Rodney Eastman) head out to her cabin and capture her there. Johnny, Andy and Stanley all take turns humiliating the young woman and dehumanizing her. Matthew is reluctant because he truly seems to like her, but he is not strong willed enough to voice decent or to try and stop his friends. Jennifer, despite being out numbered and at a severe physical disadvantage, doesn’t give up and she manages to escape the four men and flee into the woods. There she runs into Sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard) and she thinks she’s safe. He takes her back to her cabin to investigate the crime, only he turns on her as well and helps Johnny and his friends force themselves on her in a most brutal way.
Even though each man takes a turn assaulting and dehumanizing Jennifer, she doesn’t give up struggling. When the assault is finally over, she understands that they will kill her to protect themselves and so she forces herself to flee once more when they have finished. She walks slowly to the center of a bridge and before they can shoot her she plunges into the rushing waters below. The Sheriff knows that now they have a problem and he instructs the others in how to cover their tracks. They burn all of Jennifer’s possessions. Totally disassemble her car and eliminate all evidence that they had been involved with her. This destruction of Jennifer’s possessions symbolizes the complete elimination of the young woman who came to their small town. The group also spends days searching for her body, but they cannot find it.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a
violent film that brutally depicts the humiliation, rape and
physical abuse of a young woman. This alone is enough to ensure that
the film’s acceptance in the popular culture will be limited. The
subsequent turn of events that leads the film from “rape” to
“revenge” creates even more controversial subject matter as
Jennifer’s revenge involves more than just killing her attackers, it
involves torture and humiliation for them as well. It would be easy
enough to dismiss the film because of the violence and brutality it
depicts, but at the same time those elements, coupled with the all
too realistic characters are what makes the film worth watching.
Of course there will be the inevitable comparisons not only between this film and the original, but also between this film and other more recent ones that depict brutality and torture. HOSTEL for one comes to mind and thinking about the similarities of the two films actually highlights the differences and why the torture depicted in one is so different from the other. In HOSTEL the violence that was shown in graphic detail was almost all done by strangers against characters the audience had been developing empathy with. The acts were also done for no other reason than for the twisted amusement of the torturers. In I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE the brutality and dehumanization of Jennifer serve to build understanding and empathy with the viewer for the acts which she will later visit upon her attackers in revenge. While the shock value for these actions is undeniable, the violence in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE seems more, if not acceptable, then at least understandable than the acts seen in films like HOSTEL.