• I Spit On Your Grave (2010, Blu-ray)

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: 2/8/2011
    Director: Stephen R. Monroe
    Cast: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Chad Lindberg
    Year: 2010
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    The Movie:

    I Spit On Your Grave wasn’t really a remake that many people saw coming. After all, while Meir Zarchi’s original 1978 film is widely regarded as one of the grisliest of seventies American horror films it’s not a picture that necessarily appeals to today’s politically correct climate. Nevertheless, 2010 brought director Stephen R. Monroe’s take on Zarchi’s rape/revenge ‘classic’ and while it suffers from many of the same flaws as its predecessor, it manages to carve out its own take on the story.

    When the film begins, a pretty petite brunette named Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) gets the keys to the lakeside cabin she’s rented somewhere in the rural south but winds up having to stop for gas and directions on the way. She catches the eye of the sleazy attendant, Johnny (Jeff Branson), and winds up embarrassing him in front of his friends. Shortly after she arrives and settles in, she finds the toilet is clogged but some help from the slow plumber, Matthew (Chad Lindberg), resolves that problem. So happy is she that she kisses him on the cheek. She’s completely unaware, however, that later that same day she’s being videotaped by someone inside the house.

    One thing leads to another and before you know it, Johnny, Matthew and their pals Stanley (Daniel Franzese) and Andy (Rodney Eastman) have broken into Jennifer’s cabin and are in the process of subjecting her to some pretty horrible abuses – forcing her hold her mouth open and show them her teeth, referring to her as ‘show horse’ and exposing her breasts before forcing her to deep throat a pistol. She’s raped, and quite brutally at that, but escapes only to find Sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard) nearby in the woods. He comes with her to the cabin and finds nothing except some empty booze bottles and a roach from the joint Jennifer smoked earlier that day. He tells he figures she’s making it up, and then the guys reappear. At this point, we know Storch is in on it and not opposed to the same type of behavior and that Jennifer is in for more abuse. But we also know she’s going to escape and that she’s going to get her revenge…

    Monroe makes a few big changes this time around – not small ones like changing the Matthew character from a grocery delivery guy to a plumber but larger ones that affect the entire film like the inclusion of the Sheriff. On top of that the use of the video camera in the film gives much of the picture a bizarre voyeuristic tone that, intentionally or note, gives it a gonzo-porn vibe and, given the context and material, somehow makes an already seedy movie just that much seedier. On top of that, while obviously we have to sympathize with Jennifer simply because she’s enduring horrific treatment at the hands of her male captors, we’re given no reason to connect with her outside of that. There’s no character development to pull us in and no reason for us to see her as anything more than just a body being used by a group of assholes.

    Likewise, the male players in the film don’t fare any better. Playing to redneck stereotypes (the only logical reason to take the film out of Connecticut and put it in the south would be to do that) they do an admittedly very effective job of acting sleazy and playing the horrible people we’re supposed to believe they are, but attempts to humanize them (the prime example being the scene where, during the sexual assault the sheriff takes a call from his daughter) fail and they too are essentially cardboard.

    Where the film improves on the earlier one is in the realism department concerning Jennifer’s actual revenge. She uses some of the same tactics Camille Keaton did back in 1978 but in a more realistic and efficient manner. She’s not out to romanticize revenge, she’s out to fuck up those who fucked her up as quickly and as horribly as she can. She wants to make them pay without feeling the need to sexually gratify any of them before hand, which was an aspect of the original that never quite worked and which sent a conflicting message. The film is also quite well shot and makes very good use of its backwoods locations and it has an effectively gritty look and feel to it that suits the material well. It’s not a bad remake in so much as it basically tells the same story as the first one and is almost equally as shocking, but it suffers from some pretty obvious flaws that take away any sort of emotional impact needed for the story not to come across as a work of obvious misogyny (and let it be made clear that I don’t think that was the director’s intentions – but it’s hard not to come away from the movie not feeling that you’ve had your face rubbed into some pretty serious depravity without any sort of moral or emotional pay off).


    The 2.35.1 AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfer on this disc is a good one, even if the film has been bathed in a grey tint to give it an appropriately bleak and dire look. Detail is generally quite strong, and color reproduction is probably as bold as the filmmakers wanted it to be. Black levels are fine and don’t show any nasty compression artifacts and there are no problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about. You might pick up on some banding if you’re anal retentive and keep your eye out for these things, but aside from that, this is a well authored disc of some clean, if grim looking, material.

    The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track on this disc is also quite good, showing some welcome channel separation during some key scenes and spreading things around enough to result in some good directional effects and ambient noise. Bass won’t rock your windows out but it’s there when the movie asks for it, while the levels are well balanced ensuring that the dialogue is easy enough to follow. This isn’t reference quality stuff, but it’s solid nonetheless.

    Extras kick off with a commentary that comes courtesy of director Steven R. Monroe and the film’s producer, Lisa Hansen. This is, for the most part, a fairly interesting talk about some of the trouble they ran into while making this film. They were under contract to bring the film in with an R-Rating, and not surprisingly the MPAA wasn’t impressed with their efforts. They eventually got it down to an R, but were able to convince Anchor Bay to put it out uncut on home video. They also go into a fair bit of detail about the pro’s and con’s of remaking something like this, what they hoped to include versus what they knew they were going to change, and about casting the film and the resulting performances. It’s a pretty solid track that does a fine job of elaborating on the film’s origins.

    Also rather interesting is the single featurette include on the disc, The Revenge Of Jennifer Hill: Remaking A Cult Icon, which starts off with some comments from Meir Zarchi praising Monroe’s efforts and noting how the director put his own spin on the material. From here we get the standard cast and crew interviews you’d expect and some behind the scenes footage. It probably could have gone into more detail than it does here, but it’s interesting enough that it’s worth a watch.

    Rounding out the extra features are a handful of deleted scenes, two theatrical trailers, a teaser, a radio spot, animated menus and chapter selection. All of the extras are presented in high definition. A second disc included in the set houses a digital copy for your iPod or portable device – you know, in case you need some rape on the go.

    The Final Word:

    Periodically clever and frequently repulsive, this remake of I Spit On Your Grave is sorely lacking in the character development department and is instead content to focus on grisly rape and reprehensible violence. There are moments here that work and moments here that will stick with you, but the lack of an emotional connection results in a disturbingly shallow picture. Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray release, however, looks and sounds very good and contains a decent amount of extra features.
    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Horace Cordier's Avatar
      Horace Cordier -
      "Rape on the go"?? - that is a classic line if ever I read one.

      Nice review - I find this one well-made but actually seedier than the original.
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      1.78? But your screenshots are 2.35! Here, I'll lend you my reading glasses young fellow...
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      That was a typo (obviously) and has been corrected.
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      I was just joshing with you. If we wanted to get "technical", we could say it's a 2.35 aspect ratio in a 1.78 frame, hehe...