out of Five
Running time: 103
As rape-and-revenge movies (and, indeed horror remakes) go, this is actually pretty good, thanks to strong performances, a decent script and some inventively nasty death sequences.
What's it all about?
Directed by Steven R. Monroe, I Spit On Your Grave is a remake of the notorious 1978 video nasty and stars Sarah Butler as novelist Jennifer Hills, who is raped and left for dead by four redneck thugs (Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman and Chad Lindberg) when she rents an isolated cabin in order to work on her new book. However, Jennifer survives her brutal ordeal and returns to wreak violent, bloody revenge on her attackers, using a series of inventively nasty death traps.
Butler is excellent in the lead, striking the appropriate balance between vulnerable victim and kick-ass revenge merchant, so that both seem convincing. Branson, Franzese and Eastman are equally good (the less said about Lindberg's drooling idiot character, the better), without going rabidly over the top and there's strong support from Andrew Howard as the sleazy sheriff who's in league with the rapists.
The script is a vast improvement over the original film: the characters are better written, their interactions are more believable, there's much more suspense in the build-up and there's a hint of class conflict (in the smalltown paranoia/suspicion of “city types”) that adds an extra level to the attack. Similarly, Monroe goes out of his way to ensure that, unlike in the original film, the horrific rape scene is not exploitative (the BBFC have also lent a hand, by trimming scenes involving camcorders) – obviously, it's upsetting to watch, but it's handled well and serves its purpose in setting up the motive for the violent revenge to come.
Where the film really comes into its own, however, is with the inventive death sequences that comprise the second half of the film (Jennifer has obviously spent far too much time watching the Saw movies), which are cleverly staged and deliver exactly the right mixture of squeamish horror and black humour (praise is especially due to the crow-wrangler). At the same time, it will make you examine your own reaction to the revenge scenes, which should at least provoke interesting post-film pub discussion fodder.
Well made and impressively acted, I Spit on Your Grave is a cut above the usual standard of horror remakes, thanks to a decent script and some ingeniously grisly death sequences. Recommended, if you like this sort of thing.