I Spit On Your Grave: Unrated (2010) Reviewed

As someone who attests to hate-hate-hating horror movies that can be filed under (the admittedly somewhat reductive and overused classification) “torture porn,” I’m not quite sure what made me want to take the I Spit on Your Grave remake for a spin. It’s not like I’m a fan of the original. In fact, I recently gave THAT another look as well, just for comparison’s sake, and was not shocked to find that it still doesn’t really work for me at all, leaving me cold in the same way that the original Last House on the Left did. (More on the Last House remake later.) So let’s toss out the TP term once and for all because for me, I guess things are a little more complicated than that.

Perhaps what I really hate is carnage for carnage’s sake. It’s a crime that the over-appreciated Saw franchise, Rob Zombie’s entire filmography, and Eli Roth’s instincts are all guilty of and I for one would like to throw the book at the lot of them so that they never again lower my opinion of the modern mainstream horror fan (the ones that make it possible for SEVEN–count ’em!– Saws to even exist…the ones that fill up the comments sections on BloodyDisgusting.com with grammatically abominable fanboy idiocy… the ones that won’t stop talking about the “awesome” “bad-assness” of zombie movies, etc., etc.) or make me weep for the general state of the human condition. I don’t dig watching people being disemboweled by what amounts to a serial killer’s version of Hasbro’s Mouse Trap, nor do get off on prolonged scenes of people suffering and begging for their life. And rape scenes? -the kind that make you ask yourself “why on Earth am I still watching this!?” — I find them equally cheap and unpalatable shock tactics that, depending on how they’re presented, seem to say more about the filmmaker than the movie itself.

But now, I realize, I have to amend all of that. Because the truth is, I do enjoy violent suffering… IF the one suffering deserves it. That, for me, is an important distinction and the saving grace of the Last House remake, the second half of Hostel, and now I Spit on Your Grave 2.0…which I liked. A lot.

I guess the bottom line is, if I can call it a “revenge movie” I don’t classify it as “torture por– oh, right…we threw that term out.  Some might argue that both types of movies are equally abhorrent and appeal to the most unappealing of humankind’s base instincts. That may be true. But I know what I like and I like watching the bad guy get his, preferably in a way that’s either ironic, surprising or equally as horrific as what was dished out by the antagonist in the first half of the movie. Bad things happening to good (or even benign) characters? Kind of a drag, and the primary reason I can’t wrap my loving arms around Human Centipede and pucker up to give it a big mouth-to-ass kiss like so many others have. On the other hand: bad things happening to reeeeally bad people?…like rapists, sadists, and violent thrill-seekers? LET ‘EM HAVE IT! I’ll gleefully gobble it up and it won’t even upset my stomach. And gobble ISoYG I did, and I’m not afraid to admit it was deeeelish.

ISoYG begs comparison to LHotL for many reasons: First, and most significantly, their original incarnations were both prime candidates for a remake. (In a world where good horror movies like The Fog and The Stepfather are being spit-shined for mall audiences, it’s an important distinction.) Gritty, grindhouse aesthetics are fine. In fact, some of my best friends are bottom-of-the-barrel, exploitive, 42nd-Street trash flicks. But to me Last House and Spit are both movies that took the germ of good ideas and turned them into long, rape-heavy bummers. Revenge figures largely into both titles’ second halves, but not in a way that washes away the ick factor of what came before. So despite low expectations, I was at least curious to see if new versions could squeeze something a little more substantial from both b-movie premises.

Secondly, both originals are poorly acted, poorly produced (with the exception of a few eye-catching Wes Craven flourishes here and there in LHotL), and ineffective at producing anything other than a general queasiness.

Finally, in many ways, Last House and Spit are variations on an identical theme: innocence brutally stolen, followed by a surprising turn of events, followed by wall-to-wall deviant-ass-kicking REVENGE! The remakes would make a helluva’ double feature for anyone who could stomach such an evening…and, for better or worse, I’m beginning to think I probably could.

Because the plot to Spit is so stripped down and uncomplicated, telling too much would surely ruin some of the fun. And yes, for some sickos (like me evidently) there is fun to be had. Suffice to say that young author, Jennifer, has decided to leave the city to start writing her next novel in a secluded country cabin (three words that should strike fear in any horror movie character). She gets lost and stops at one of those gas stations you only see in movies like this (see below) to tank up and ask a trio of backwoods gas-station attendants for directions.

See what I mean?

This is bad move #1 — telegraphing that she’ll be alone in a secluded cabin that they already know about. Bad move #2 comes in the form of a sexual rebuff that damages the delicate masculine ego of the head creep. When she finally finds her way to her pastoral getaway– well, what do you expect to happen? Even if you haven’t seen the original, you already have a good idea of what’s next, and let me be clear: it isn’t easy to watch. Humiliation, rape, baseball bats, video cameras, an escape gone wrong, and the added horror of having a possible hero turn on a sadistic whim…rough stuff indeed.

And just when you think the poor girl has had it (unless you check your watch and see that there still must be plenty of movie left) Jennifer cleverly fakes her death and disappears without having the decency to leave behind a corpse, meaning her tormentors are left to wonder if they can close the book on their crimes and move on to the “looking back fondly” stage of their evil behavior. For months they’re left to stew in their own guilt, and this is where the movie reveals that there’s more to it than meets the eye. Seeing these pricks bicker, worry and point fingers at one another is satisfying, and a sickly entertaining prologue to what happens next: REVENGE!

We’re not talking about your basic eye-for-an-eye revenge. Nor are we talking about a quickly conceived and briskly administered death sentence. No. This shit is complicated. Jennifer did some planning since her last visit to Cabin Carnage.  We’re not  talking Nancy-rigging-a-sledgehammer-to-smash-Freddy-in-the-chest booby traps. We’re talking, well – lets just say, Jigsaw would be proud.

It’s definitely squirm-inducing. One comeuppance in particular involving a video camera, some fish hooks and a dead rat, had me watching through my fingers. But it’s damn effective, clever, and ironic. Scenes like this make ISoYG impossible to dismiss as brutal garbage because there’s significantly more going on than paybacks.

All of that would be enough to recommend Spit, but imagine my surprise to find it’s also well acted, perfectly paced, and sharply written (the dialogue really brings the monsters to life). Also, this movie features some of the most convincing gore I’ve seen in a long time. No (evident anyway) CGI blood, and no showy Fangoria-centerfold latex, but–you know, effective effects. The kind that make you think, I bet that’s exactly what it would look like if someone did that with fishhooks.

If you can stomach it, I Spit on Your Grave is, for my money, an instant classic of its kind. But I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you should have anything to do with its kind.

***1/2 – three and a half stars out of four

~ by willnepper on February 11, 2011.

One Response to “I Spit On Your Grave: Unrated (2010) Reviewed”

  1. Great review Will. When are we watching the double feature at your place?

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