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Sunday, January 30, 2011

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010) -- DVD review by porfle

As with Meir Zarchi's 1978 original, the 2010 remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE tells the simple story of a woman named Jennifer Hills who gets savagely gang-raped at her summer home in the country and then goes on a brutal revenge spree against her attackers.  I found the new version somewhat less satisfying as a film, but as an eyeballs-deep wallow in utter, sadistic depravity, it takes the bloody brass ring.

Judging from the "Dukes of Hazzard" accents, the location seems to have been switched from Yankie Land to somewhere way down South, where most of the demented yokels of moviedom seem to live these days.  (Naturally, one of them wears a Confederate flag bandana on his head.)  Another big difference is that Zarchi's film took the time to establish a deceptively tranquil mood before shattering it, with Jennifer's sense of security and well-being robbed along with everything else. 

Here, the music sets an ominous tone right off the bat, and Jennifer (Sarah Butler) is edgy and uncomfortable with her surroundings as soon as she arrives in the remote community.  Johnny the gas pump jockey (Jeff Branson) reveals his crudeness immediately rather than deceiving her with a folksy fascade (which this version of the character would be incapable of doing anyway) and the two start off on bad terms.

In addition to the interchangeable Stanley and Andy characters, the slow-witted Matthew (Chad Lindberg) returns as a plumber who fixes Jennifer's toilet and goes ga-ga when she gives him a friendly peck.  Johnny and company find such provocative behavior intolerable and, as they drool over Stanley's peeping-Tom videos of her, resolve to teach the uppity city gal a lesson while helping their mentally-challenged mascot lose his virginity.

What follows is the nocturnal home invasion which becomes the basis for Jennifer's inevitable revenge, with writer Stuart Morse pulling out all the stops to make these guys as unforgivably reprehensible as possible.  As with Zarchi's film, the sequence is designed to justify the filmmakers' indulgence in extreme violence against the rapists later on.  Still, it lacks the lingering impact and immediacy of the original (not to mention Camille Keaton's searingly realistic performance) and seems almost by-the-numbers, as though the film can't wait to get it over with and fast-forward to the juicy revenge stuff. 

At this point, the remake starts to throw in some new wrinkles, such as the introduction of a not-so-helpful sheriff (Andrew Howard), which makes it easier to judge on its own terms.  In fact, once Jennifer disappears from the film for what turns out to be quite a spell (which, unfortunately, means that we're not nearly as engaged with her character this time around), it's almost a completely different story.  When she finally returns, she has become a hardcore killing machine who stalks and dispatches her prey like a cross between Jason Voorhees and Rube Goldberg.

The second half of the original movie is positively sedate compared to this one, which is pretty much a torture porn free-for-all.  The filmmakers go all out to surpass the 1978 version by taking it to a new level that's beyond gratuitous.  "What are the most ghastly things you could do to a guy?" they seem to be thinking.  "Whatever they are, we get to show them, hee-hee, because by gum, these scumbags raped Jennifer!"  As such, the execution scenes are diabolically elaborate and profoundly depraved--so much so, in fact, that you might even start feeling sorry for these guys after awhile.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a director-producer commentary, a "making of" featurette, deleted scenes, trailers, and a radio spot.

Whether you're rooting for Jennifer or just turned on by this kind of stuff, the cumulative payoff is pretty intense.  If you fit into neither category, then you're probably watching the way wrong movie.  Hard to believe that anything could make the 1978 I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE look like a model of restraint in comparison, but the no-holds-barred (and, let's face it, repulsive) remake manages to do so.  While it fails to surpass the original in some ways, fans of brutal cinematic sadism and extreme gore definitely won't be disappointed. 

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