Submitting yourself to either version of I Spit on Your Grave requires that you have a cast iron stomach. The original is one of the most notorious horror films in movie history (or at least it was back in the 80s), although I sometimes wonder if that has more to do with the infamous movie poster than the film itself. Further, I also wonder if either film is really deserving of the label “horror.” Just because a movie contains horrific imagery doesn’t necessarily make it a horror film. What these movies really are is exploitative exercises in cruelty and humiliation. They’re for folks who thought that The Last House on the Left or its remake of the same name played it too safe.
The core plot is the same in both versions. A young female novelist from the big city named Jennifer Hills rents a cottage in the backwoods for the summer. There she encounters a group of redneck men intent on getting their mentally slow friend Matthew laid for the first time. Their mission spirals disastrously out of control, and at the hands of them, Jennifer is repeatedly beaten, kicked, shamed and raped, although not necessarily in that order. The second half of the film follows Jennifer Hills on her mission of payback, in which she methodically and cruelly offs each one of the men, and in the process loses something inside of herself (although maybe that’s just my take on the material). The differences between the two films are in the details.
The original focuses more heavily on the rapes, as Jennifer is passed around from one guy to the next. She escapes, they find her, and another assault occurs. Lather, rinse, repeat. One particular incident, which takes place on a rock, is one of the ugliest, saddest things I’ve ever seen portrayed in a feature film. In the remake, the rapes aren’t quite as front and center, but the emphasis on humiliation is almost unbearable. Either way, the material’s played, it’s thoroughly atrocious fare, and quite frankly I feel unqualified in trying to find a way to explain away such differences. If I were reviewing Deliverance and its inevitable remake (come on – you know it’s bound to happen sooner or later), it might be another matter entirely.
Read the rest of the DVD reviews for both films by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.