I Spit on Your Grave DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Anchor Bay
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Written by Meir Zarchi (Original Screenplay) and Stuart Morse (Adapted Screenplay)
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 108 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 7th February 2011
Sarah Butler as Jennifer
Jeff Branson as Johnny
Andrew Howard as Storch
Daniel Franzese as Stanley
Rodney Eastman as Andy
Chad Lindberg as Matthew
If ever the word infamous is suited perfectly to a film, it is with Meir Zarchi’s 1978 exploitation shocker, Day of the Woman. An odious and unpleasant low-budget affair, it bombed at the box office until, in 1981, distributor Jerry Gross picked it up and weaved his “magic” on it. He changed the title to the now iconic I Spit on Your Grave and coupled it with a sensationalist, not to mention misleading, ad campaign. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Steven R. Monroe’s 2010 remake tinkers with the story a little, but the basic framework is the same. A young writer, Jennifer Hills, rents a remote cabin to remove herself from the stresses of everyday life and finish her work. While on her break she is brutally raped and humiliated by a gang of five locals, including the Sheriff and the village idiot. The biggest mistake they make is leaving her for dead, as she returns to get payback on every single one of them.
Like the original, the rape scene is protracted and very difficult to watch. The UK’s BBFC insisted on a total of 17 cuts, totaling 43 seconds, to the sequence to “remove elements that tend to eroticise sexual assault”. Given that this difficult-to-stomach portion of the movie is incredibly harrowing, it’s hard to see how any elements could be considered remotely erotic. Certainly the cuts do not reduce the power of these scenes, however much you may object to the censorship.
Sarah Butler is cast perfectly in the lead role as Jennifer Hills. Incredibly beautiful, but not in an overtly sexual way, and with the physicality to pull off the avenging angel she becomes. When she breaks free of her tormentors and the ordeal is over, she walks slowly off into the woods. You’d expect it to be described as a stagger, but the way she carries it off, the walk and the look in her eyes are ones of cold determination. Even taking the story as read, you’re left in no doubt that Jennifer will come back to exact a fitting revenge on the rednecks. She is not a victim, she is a survivor.
Shortly after the rape, we see Sheriff Storch return to his family. It’s a scene that can do nothing but build the viewer’s hatred for the character and make his punishment at the end of the film all the more satisfying. Devoted father, loving husband, brutal rapist. We’re introduced to this during the first stages of Jennifer’s humiliation, when he takes time-out to answer a phone call from his daughter. Hearing him tell her, “Daddy’s busy right now, honey” just brings home what a repellant bastard he is.
Interestingly enough, while Jerry Gross’s poster campaign for the original movie screamed “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition…” there were only four protagonists. The character Storch in the remake brings the group to five, and the breaking and burning – also absent from the original – are delivered here too.
I’ve never been a fan of rape revenge flicks. I like my horror escapist, supernatural, far-fetched or just plain old gore for gore’s sake. When you take a subject like rape, it’s not horror as far as I’m concerned. Horrific yes, but as a premise for a horror movie, no thanks. I can only imagine that films like ISOYG get lumped in with horror is because few viewers, outside of fans of the genre, can stomach the subject matter. As it stands, this remake is a film of ferocious intensity, but not one I would rush to watch again any time soon. If you’re of the opinion that rapists should be castrated and force-fed their own genitals, then you may very well get twisted enjoyment from a single viewing of this movie.
Video and Audio:
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the overall look is slightly desaturated and washed out to match the general tone of the film. There's a choice of either a 2.0 stereo track or 5.1 surround, but as it's not a movie that plays big on sound effects, both get the job done well.
A short documentary, The Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Remaking A Cult Icon, interviews the cast about their experiences on the film. Some interesting points are raised by the actors with regards to shooting the rape scenes. In addition to this is the original US promo material, consisting of a radio spot, teaser and full theatrical trailer.