The overdone glut of horror film remakes in recent years can be deemed at best underwhelming, and at worst, a train wreck; attempts to reboot the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises were tepid at best, while A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 was a flat-out disaster. In remaking the late-70s exploitation flick I Spit On Your Grave, director Steven R. Monroe is essentially retooling a film that was never really that popular in the first place, a factor that helps more than hinders his efforts here, for there is no rabid fanbase to dismay. That said, while it is in almost all stakes a better film than its predecessor, it is also utterly pointless and much like the original, a fairly mawkish rape-revenge-fantasy. Jennifer (Sarah Butler) is an author readying to take a break in a secluded cabin to write her second novel. However, it isn't long before a group of hicks begin to harass her, starting out as intrusive horseplay but culminating in a vicious gang rape. The men made the mistake of not checking she was dead, though. Some time later, she returns for blood-soaked revenge, and isn't going to rest until everyone complicit in her assault is done away with. I Spit On Your Grave's main attraction to most viewers - the exploitation element, no doubt - follows a curiously long tether, as Jennifer goes through the fairly needless motions of moving to the cabin and getting set up etc, while Monroe admittedly devotes a beneficial wealth of time to the disturbing dynamic of the central male group. Monroe keenly observes how flaring masculine egos appear to beget their predatory behaviour, demonstrating that at least some attempt to structure the characters psychologically has been made. The initial assault is appropriately unpleasant; the actors all play their parts well, especially Butler, whose bravery and quality of performance distinguishes her from being just another skinny lass flaunting her figure for the sake of titilation; her nudity is probably the least alluriing in recent memory. It certainly inspires the requisite anger, and indeed, the first half of the film works despite its protracted pacing and a couple of needless, awkward changes to the narrative (in the original, they had a far better reason to believe she was dead), while it all crumbles in the mediocre second half. The final hour is a more by-the-numbers offering, as Jennifer haunts her assailants like any given spectral serial killer, hunting the goons down and all too eagerly spouting their misogynistic remarks back in their faces before disposing of them in many manner of violent ways. The script from this point barely feels like it's trying; Jennifer's smart-ass quips are more annoyingly forced and corny than funny or righteous. The story should be more serious-minded and visceral like the original (which regrettably is outdone by this in every way except the script). The constant "I told you so" smart-assery of the protagonist works against our inherent sympathy for her; while we still see her as due vengeance, you'll probably end up wishing she'd just shut up and do it. Gorehounds will at least find themselves at home in these parts; two inventive kills make sitting through the contrived dialogue just about worth it, though the violent final word will only thrill if you're unaware that it has been ripped straight out of another little-known rape-revenge flick called Straightheads released a few years ago, starring the truly odd concoction of Danny Dyer and X-Files femme Gillian Anderson. An unmistakably slicker, better-produced and more solidly acted film than the original, I Spit On Your Grave is nevertheless another addition to the pointless platter of horror remakes. It's far too bloated and slow for the quick thrills, and lacks the moral substance or feral intellect to amount to more than a churlish feminist revenge fantasy.
Extras:Slim pickings, but a featurette entitled "The Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Remaking A Cult Icon" packs a few interesting morsels into its 13-minute runtime, providing some solid cross-cutting between footage recorded on set and the final film product. Sarah Butler seems well-adjusted and respectable in discussing the difficulty of the role, and the biggest surprise is how well the cast got on despite the grim subject matter. In terms of promotional material, a few brief trailers are included for posterity's sake, though don't venture here until you've seen the film; the menu screen contains an unforgivable spoiler. I Spit On Your Grave is released on Blu-ray today.
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