I Spit on Your Grave, A Sordid History
The remake of the 1978 cult classic I Spit on Your Grave matches the misogyny of the original while amping up the fury of a woman victimized in the worst way. If you like your horror uncomfortable, violent, and visceral, then I Spit on Your Grave is in your wheelhouse. Filled with extreme scenes of rape and torture, it challenges you to feel the victim’s pain but also bask in her righteous rage.
Here’s a quick recap of the five-film franchise before we dive into the 2010 remake. The first film (originally titled Day of the Woman) opened in 1978 and starred Camille Keaton. Be sure to check our in-depth review of that film. Camille Keaton returned 41 years later for a direct sequel in 2019 titled I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu. The 2010 remake spawned two sequels: 2013’s I Spit on Your Grave 2 and 2015’s I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance Is Mine.
For an in-depth look behind the making of the original, watch the 2019 documentary Growing Up with I Spit on Your Grave (1978) written and directed by Terry Zarchi, the son of the original’s director Meir Zarchi.
I Spit on Your Grave (2010), directed by Steven R. Monroe, only grossed $1.2 million during its theatrical run and just $93,000 in the U.S and Canada, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie had its biggest haul in Mexico with $328,000. Critics and audiences were not kind to the film. At the Rotten Tomatoes review site, only 31 percent of critics like the movie while the audience score is 47 percent. By the way, the original also struggled at the box office but became a top seller in the videocassette market in the early 1980s.
The taboo subject matter and ultra-violent reputation of the original certainly limited the remake’s appeal as a film to watch in theaters, but I think those reasons unfortunately overshadowed one of the best movies in the rape-revenge subgenre of horror.
I found the 2010 remake superior to the controversial 1978 film and far and away the best in the franchise. First, Sarah Butler delivers a breakout performance as Jennifer, a writer whose stay at an isolated cabin is interrupted by a pack of small-town rednecks on the prowl. Butler’s performance is raw and real enough to make the movie difficult to watch at times. Second, the men portraying the rapists, particularly Andrew Howard as Storch and Jeff Branson as Johnny, play the misogynistic local yokels to the hilt. Third, the direction by Monroe is efficient and confident as he effectively captures the spirit of the original while vastly improving on its production value. Meir Zarchi, who wrote and directed the original, received a writing credit for the remake along with Adam Rockoff.
Jennifer Walks into a Trap
The film begins with Jennifer picking up keys to a cabin from an old hick named Earl played by the always awesome Tracey Walter (Conan the Destroyer, Batman).
“I don’t suppose you know how to get out there?” Earl asks before producing the directions on a hand-drawn map. Of course, Jennifer gets lost and stops at a gas station with a redneck playing a harmonica. His mouth says “Howdy, ma’am” but his eyes say something else as he looks at Jennifer with a predatory gaze. Jennifer asks another one of the gas station workers for directions to her cabin, unknowingly and innocently giving away her location.
The next scene establishes the misogynistic dynamic in the group of men. One of the guys named Stanley secretly videotapes Jennifer in her underwear from outside her cabin one night and shares the images with his friends, prompting a challenge.
“A city bitch like that is ungettable,” says Andy.
“I’ll get it,” Johnny replies but his ego is bruised because his friends laugh at the boast. “You don’t think I can have that any time I want to? A bitch like that has come out here for one reason and one reason only.”
When their mentally challenged friend Matthew (in a strong performance by Chad Lindberg) says she’s not like that, Johnny responds, “They’re all like that.”
The next stop for the guys is Jennifer’s cabin, and it begins a protracted multiple rape and abuse sequence that extends for a solid half-hour with Butler fighting back and the men overpowering her and breaking her spirit. There’s a twist in the middle of all the violence that changes the mood from terrifying to hopelessly terrifying for Jennifer.
After the men have their way with her, one of the guys named Storch says, “It was fun while it lasted”, and pumps his shotgun preparing to shoot Jennifer. However, a beaten and broken Jennifer summons enough strength to jump off a bridge into the river below before Storch can fire his shot.
Unable to find her body, the men start to buckle under the stress, and the next 20 minutes of the movie show the psychological toll their crime and her absence is taking. The not knowing what happened to her body is a kind of pre-torture for these men before the real stuff begins.
An Ultra-Violent Retort
When Jennifer finally returns, she’s filled with a smoldering rage and an absolute desire for revenge. She’s judge, jury, and executioner. The last half-hour of the film follows her path of violence to each man as she delivers poetic justice with extreme prejudice. It’s not just revenge; it’s revenge with meaning. She uses the men’s own words and actions against them.
For example, Jennifer kills Stanley, the man who videotaped her rape, by tying him to a tree, threading fishhooks through his eye lids so he can’t close them, and then lathers up his eyes with fish guts for the crows to eat. She turns the video camera on him and says, “I know you like to watch.”
In another scene, when Andy’s face is hanging over a tub of water soon to be filled with lye, he begs her, “Please.” Jennifer leans down and reminds him, “Please is what I said to you.”
She then alternates between Stanley and Andy, symbolic of how the men alternated raping her.
The group’s de facto leader Johnny gets particularly brutalized as Jennifer uses pliers and a hedge shear to extract and cut off body parts.
She saves the best act of revenge for Storch, a family man with a daughter of his own. She captures him and prepares to kill him, but Storch is worried Jennifer will hurt his daughter.
“She’s just an innocent girl,” he says. “So was I,” Jennifer replies in a way that breaks your heart. What a powerful moment and message, especially when she asks Storch to imagine if someone had done to his daughter what they did to her.
Until that moment, Jennifer is like a machine without emotion, dispatching each of her attackers. After the last one is dead, the camera settles on her face. Her eyes are blank, but her lips curve into a small smile. The end.
It made me wonder if the only time victims can truly smile again is when their attackers are no longer a threat.
Men Versus Women Perspective
The remake of I Spit on Your Grave spends more time exploring the behavior of the men who commit the crimes against Jennifer than on Jennifer herself, which may seem a little off-putting to some viewers. We see how they leer at women, how they justify their behavior, how peer pressure escalates the situation, and how the group feeds off each other.
The woman’s perspective is not explored except through Jennifer’s eyes, and only in relation to the violence committed against her. We’re not privy to how she overcomes the trauma. She escapes and disappears for a month, and she returns as an avenging angel ready to deal out punishment and death. What happened to her during her absence is never explained.
Her feelings are somewhat revealed through the dialogue she delivers during her vengeance spree. However, most of her comments are the same ones the men said while violating her. She simply parrots their words, casting their meanings in a new light. At least we know she remembers every moment of her trauma, but we never see how she emotionally deals with the aftermath of the gang rape, nor do we see how she arrives at her decision to take matters into her own hands.
Rape-revenge movies receive a lot of negative reaction for explicitly showing taboo subject matter through the point of view of misogynists. But well-made ones like I Spit on Your Grave are cathartic to me because the bad guys get exactly what they deserve. And that doesn’t always happen in the real world.
I Spit on Your Grave (2010) - Rage-Fueled Rape-Revenge Remake - Malevolent Dark
Director: Steven R. Monroe
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33