Thursday, March 24, 2011

Torch A Pawn: I Spit On Your Grave (2010) Review

In amongst this pile of words that I try to pass off as a blog, I think I've previously mentioned that I don't have a problem with film-makers remaking an old film if the original hasn't aged well or was not very good to begin with. This certainly applies to the original I Spit On Your Grave. Whilst it has an interesting history with Australian censors (which you can read about here), the film itself is pretty awful. If I remember correctly the original ISOYG basically has two modes of operation: stupid & boring. Opening rape scene: stupid. Middle section where nothing happens: boring. Final scenes of revenge: stupid.

So now we have the inevitable remake (I say "inevitable" because Hollywood seems to be on a collective mission to remake every frickin' horror movie ever made) which fixes a lot of the problems that the original film had, but in doing so creates a few problems of its own. It's not entirely dissimilar to what happens when I try to fix things around my house.

After the success of her previous novel, Jennifer (Sarah Butler) decides she needs some genuine solitude to write her follow up novel. So, she does what all good horror movie protagonists do and heads out into the woods to stay in an isolated cabin. On route to the cabin she gets slightly lost and has an ominous encounter with a group of rednecks when she stops to ask for directions at one of those grungy grimy single-pump gas stations you only ever see in horror movies.

Jennifer eventually finds her peaceful idyllic secluded cabin and, briefly, enjoys some quality writing time and vino consumption. Of course, such idyllic peace can't last long when you're staying in a horror movie cabin after a run-in with some horror movie rednecks at a horror movie gas station. So, not surprisingly, Jennifer receives a visit from the rednecks who proceed to physically and emotionally torment her before icing their particularly nasty metaphoric cake by raping her.

I don't think it's a spoiler to reveal that, after Jennifer makes an improbable (read: impossible) escape from her tormentors, she returns quite some time later to exact some cruel and unusual revenge.

"I'm gonna kill those bastards... no, wait... I'm gonna fix my hair, then I'm gonna kill those bastards!"

The major improvements over the original here are the pacing, the performances, and the gravitas of the scene in which Jennifer is tormented and raped. All these elements were crap in the original. If I remember correctly the original's rape scene, in particular, played more like a Benny Hill skit than a horrific scene of torment. This is not the case here. The protracted scene of torment in this new version is not "enjoyable" to watch, but it's credible, horrific, and effective.

The major problem with this remake is the improbability and exploitive nature of Jennifer's revenge scenes. Basically, the film works reasonably well up until the point where Jennifer escapes her tormentors, but then it jumps the shark with a phenomenal amount of clearance.

In the original we see our female protagonist slowly (too slowing for it to be effective filmed entertainment, but anyway) recover from her ordeal, before exacting her implausible revenge. In the remake she simply disappears and reappears without a skerrick of a clue as to how she manages it. She then seeks revenge using methods that would make Jigsaw proud. It's at this point you feel like you're watching a series of contrivances conceived by a screen writer, not the wrath of a woman brutally tormented and raped, and it completely undermines any chance you have of taking any of it seriously.

Additionally, like most modern torture porn, there's a complete absence of suspense. This stuff just isn't scary. I guess, to be fair, the very early scenes are ominous and, briefly, suspenseful but once the torment and torture start it's more gross than scary.

Whilst, in most respects, this remake is a superior effort to its predecessor, that's a bit like saying wood chips taste better than dirt. Yeah, sure, this remake is an improvement but the bar was set so low by the original, that's not really saying much.

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