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Get Mad and Get Even

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

Steve Dietl/Anchor Bay Films

Consider this not a recommendation, but, rather, a warning: "I Spit on Your Grave" gets the job done. The film succeeds on nearly every level its architects, director Steven R. Monroe and screenwriter Stuart Morse, no doubt intended. When remaking one of the more notorious of '70s-era exploitation pictures (the same-titled 1978 button-pusher from director Meir Zarchi), the main goal, theoretically, is to up the ante. Mr. Monroe's take on "I Spit on Your Grave" most certainly accomplishes that. The drawn-out rape scenes pour over viewers' eyes like thick, slow-oozing acid. There's nary a sympathetic character save for the film's heroine, Jennifer (Sarah Butler), a city-bred writer unfortunate enough to pick a rural getaway with deviant redneck neighbors, five scumbags-in-flannels that defile her and leave her humiliated, decimated and mostly naked body to die. This makes her five-part revenge all the more satisfying in a pro-girl-power way, and extremely nauseating for those with weak stomachs.

Is "I Spit on Your Grave" a good film? Well, that all depends. Are you the type to sit around dreaming of a day when the Academy Awards committee taps into its collective dark side and introduces a Best Kill Scene category? (P.S. Keep dreaming, sicko.) If so, this one's a no-brainer. In a horror market hell-bent on remaking every beloved title, whether the original production has been embraced by the mainstream or just VHS-bargain-bin dwellers, Mr. Monroe's film falls within the upper tier. Lean in size and mean in structure, "I Spit on Your Grave" keeps the tone stone-faced, even though some of the acting is sure to inspire a few chuckles. This isn't an actor's piece, though, no matter what its cast and crew may say in interviews. Any time a film matter-of-factly piles fish guts onto a man's eyes in order for crows to peck his pupils into Swiss cheese, there's a clear agenda at hand.

Are you the kind of moviegoer who dissects plots down to the last plausible-or-not detail? (P.S. Lighten up, Francis.) If so, take heed, because this one's a bit brainless. Just as last year's independent gore fest "The Collector," "I Spit on Your Grave" rips a few pages from the "Home Alone" playbook. Jennifer's vengeance is brutal—crowd-pleasing, even. But her methods at times defy realism, a point of minor importance here, yet one that's tough to write off as par for the unrated course. Mr. Morse's script has gumption, though, expanding the 1978 film's barely-there plot and stretching the interim between Jennifer's nightmare and her murder-dream-come-true payback. It's marginally successful, generating a kernel of a catharsis once she takes rusty garden shears to genitals and rams a shotgun into one villain's you-know-what. A charged-up feeling that'll surely evaporate once the viewer exits the theater, of course. "I Spit on Your Grave" is nothing if not a quick, efficient lowest-common-denominator genre fix.

And, really, that's what it's all about here — take it or leave it. As far as the filmmakers are concerned, the nastier the money-shot the better; and "I Spit on Your Grave" brings the vileness in bulk. How the film's coda reaches for morality-targeting impact is wishful thinking at best, and reminds one that Mr. Zarchi's repugnant original was uncalled for even back in the no-holds-barred '70s, sure, but also quite ballsy in its own ways. This redo, coming on the heels of a now-dismissible string of torture-over-terror films, should momentarily tickle sick fancies until the next gross kid on horror's block comes along. Mr. Monroe and company have simply turned an unnecessary idea into a serviceable product.


Opens on Oct. 9 in the United States.

Directed by Steven R. Monroe; written by Stuart Morse, based on “Day of the Woman,” a film by Meir Zarchi; director of photography, Neil Lisk; edited by Daniel Duncan; music by Corey Allen Jackson; production design by Dins Danielsen; costumes by Bonnie Stauch; produced by Lisa Hansen and Paul Hertzberg; released by Anchor Bay Films. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Sarah Butler (Jennifer), Jeff Branson (Johnny), Daniel Franzese (Stanley), Rodney Eastman (Andy), Chad Lindberg (Matthew), Tracey Walter (Earl) and Andrew Howard (Storch).


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