AICN HORROR: Make / Remake review of the original & remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, plus interviews with the original's director Meir Zarchi, remake director Steven B. Monroe & stars Sarah Butler & Chad Lindberg!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Why ZOMBIES & SHARKS? Well, those are the two things that I’ve had the most nightmares about. It’s the reason I rarely swim in the ocean. It’s the reason I have an escape plan from my apartment just in case of a zombie apocalypse. Now if you’ve ever had those fears or fears like them, inspired mainly by nights upon nights of watching films of the frightening kind, this is the place for you. So look for AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS every Friday for the foreseeable future, horror hounds, where we’ll be covering horror in all forms; retro, indie, mainstream, old and new.
I know Monday isn’t our normal day for AICN HORROR, but I’ve got a special column to commemorate the release of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and its remake on BluRay & DVD this Tuesday that couldn’t wait...Enjoy!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE Interview Part 1
with Meir Zarchi, director of the original!
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE Interview Part 2
with the director & cast of the remake!
Make / Remake: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978 & 2010)
And finally…Gasp at the true horror of spittin’ John & June!
Ambush Bug here with an interview with the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE director Meir Zarchi. It’s funny that the nicest folks can come up with some of the most horrifying stuff. Mr. Zarchi seemed like a great guy in my phone conversation with him a few days ago, a true class act. Here’s what he had to say about his film, his dislike of the title, and his plans for a sequel to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE!!!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Meir, can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with the idea for I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE?
MEIR ZARCHI (MZ): Well, that would probably take up all of the time we have here. (laughter) But I’ll make it very brief. I’ll probably be doing this throughout our whole conversation, but I do describe it extensively in the audio commentary in the new release of the DVD. Very briefly, it was 1974 and a good friend of mine came to my home to play tennis with me but the tennis court was wet. So he said, “Why don’t we go jogging instead?” And I don’t do that. I don’t do jogging. But he wanted to so I said ok. And my daughter was 8 years old at the time and she said, “Daddy, daddy can I come?” So I said, “Sure, ok, come on.” As we went into my friend’s car; by the way his name was Alex Pfau, he is the gentleman who put together all of the sound effects of the movie. He was a close and dear friend. We hopped into his car and took a shortcut to get to the high school where the running track was. And we passed by this small little park. It was a beautiful little park. And we cut through the park to get to the high school. As we were driving through the park, my daughter was in the back seat. My daughter said, “Daddy, daddy, she’s naked.” And I said, “What? What are you talking about?” and she said, “There, there’s a naked girl!” And I turned to the right passenger window and looked out and I saw her. And when I saw her it was exactly the way the make-up looked, expression for expression as we see it in the original film after the second rape in the film. I ran to this girl and threw a blanket over her and the rest, well, the rest is in the commentary of the film.
BUG: Wow, that sounds like a very powerful experience. Something you most likely would never forget. What was it like seeing this woman in this state?
MZ: Well, remember. Are you married?
BUG: No, I’m not.
MZ: OK, time to get married, Mark. (laughter)
BUG: OK (laughs), I will.
MZ: Now, I’m going to act like your parent. Time to get married. Do it tomorrow. (laughs)
BUG: I will.
MZ: (laughing) You promise?
BUG: I do. I promise. (laughter)
MZ: OK. Anyway, who was with me? My 8 year old daughter. And this girl, totally naked, cold, out of the bushes. She was around 18 or 19 years old. What do you see in your mind? You’ll be a father one day. I was thinking about this girl just ten years older than my daughter and thinking, “That could be my daughter.” It could be my sister. My wife. And this girl, who managed to survive this tragedy, was my sister, my daughter, my mother, my daughter, all into one. This is where the spark of the story of the revenge came.
BUG: How did people react to the film when it was first released?
MZ: The very first time people saw it. We screened it first in 1978. We didn’t have a distributor. I made the film with my own money. I didn’t establish any marketing for it at all. Nothing. And so I called 15 or 20 different distributors, most of them independent. I showed it in the laboratory where I edited the film and put it together to an audience. And after the movie ended…and obviously I was there to see it…one woman ran out of the theater during the rape scene. One or two women ran out and never came back. They walked out of the theater without saying anything. They were obviously in shock. They had never seen something like that before.
BUG: I remember seeing it quite a few years ago and thinking it was such an intense film. Then I recently saw it in preparation for this interview and it still holds up. It’s just as intense.
MZ: Last time I watched it I was in the Sony studios in a beautiful studio and the whole thing was transferred to digital. But that was watching it being transferred one scene at a time, back and forth and back and forth. I haven’t seen it all in one sitting in a while. I’ll probably sit down and watch it sometime soon.
BUG: Can you tell me a little bit about the eye catching title of the film? I know you originally called it DAY OF THE WOMAN.
MZ: Well, the first title was going to be THE HOUSATONIC REVENGE. The name of the river was the Housatonic River and it cuts down from Canada and into the Hudson River. So it cuts through Connecticut and other states in New England. That’s the river where all of the rape and revenge takes place. It’s the peaceful river she discovers when she first comes to the house. And then, late in the movie, and after editing it, almost toward the end of it, I thought, THE HOUSATONIC REVENGE is an interesting title, but no one knows what it is. It’s not as famous as the Hudson River and no one was going to know what the movie is going to be about. So I came up with DAY OF THE WOMAN and to me that says it all. And how did the movie come to be known as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE? Again, it’s a long story that I go into in the commentary of the movie, but to make a long story short again, after trying to distribute it as DAY OF THE WOMAN for two years but no one wanted to do it. Jerry Gross, who I knew from years before through business, saw the movie and said, “Give me the movie. I know what to do with it.” So he shopped it around and he retitled it, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. My face became pale. I hated the title then and I hate it now as well.
BUG: So you prefer to call it DAY OF THE WOMAN?
BUG: Are there any stories from the making of the film that you'd like to share with our readers? It had to be a pretty intense shoot for you and the cast and crew.
MZ: Basically, it was a wonderful set. Everyone was very cooperative. Everyone knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. Everyone read the script, so they knew what to expect. There was a moment of a clash between one actor and Jennifer, but it was straightened out immediately. The movie was done without the use of standbys or anyone to do all of the dangerous acts. No stuntmen. But everyone worked hard and we finished it in about five and a half weeks.
BUG: What went into the casting of the key roles in this film, especially the role of Jennifer? What were you looking for in an actress to play her?
MZ: She [Camille Keaton] was fragile. She was ethereal. When I saw a picture…I got about 1000 pictures for the men roles and about 600 for the Jennifer role. Something like that. And I remember when I saw her picture, I remember saying, “Now this is something. This is our Jennifer. Now can she act?” I called her in. I had two other women. Two very, very beautiful women. One of them was like an Amazon. Very tall. She had a face that said, “Don’t fuck with me.” The other one, the third girl, was so beautiful it was distracting. So they didn’t work.
BUG: Yeah, Camille [Keaton] has this sort of girl next door quality.
MZ: Well, I don’t know about that. She may be someone you wish would be next door to you (laughs). She’s not a common looking girl. She’s very beautiful. But she looked vulnerable. And you don’t expect this girl to do everything she does at the end. The other girl you might expect that.
BUG: That’s one of the things that makes the film so effective is that it’s such a contrast with this sweet girl doing these horrible things.
MZ: Exactly. Let me ask you. Did you see the remake?
BUG: Yes, I did. I was just about to ask you about the remake.
MZ: What was the difference between the original’s Jennifer and the new Jennifer?
BUG: Well, they took out the sexual aspect of the way she entices her attackers in before she does her revenge. She doesn’t use her sexuality as a weapon. What do you think of that?
MZ: Well, I wanted it to be there. But even though I acted as executive producer of the movie, I worked with some other producers and one of them was Lisa Hansen and another producer Paul Hertzberg. Lisa said that she felt that it wasn’t necessary in the remake. She felt she could enact her revenge without using her sexuality. So there you are. What do you think about it?
BUG: You know, I think it makes for two very different movies. Both of them are engrossing and effective in their own way. But I like it when remakes change things up a little bit like that because it’s not the same movie done over shot for shot. To me, that’s more interesting.
MZ: So you think both movies stand on their own.
MZ: Yeah, I agree with you.
BUG: What do you think of the remake?
MZ: Well, since I was executive producer, it’s hard to be objective. It’s like someone is cooking and they put little parts in the recipe and they take a little taste here and there. So it’s hard for me to stay objective. I should be asking you how you feel about it. Obviously I will say go see it. It’s fantastic. But I’m more interested in hearing what you say about it.
BUG: I thought it was a really good film. Both of them actually. After seeing the original, I knew kind of what to expect, but the remake does a few things that really surprised me and that made both films stand on their own.
MZ: I agree with you. That was a good answer.
BUG: Thanks. Dealing with the subject of rape is always a controversial matter. How did you approach this tricky subject matter knowing that there would be a lot of people who would feel strongly about this topic?
MZ: I didn’t think in terms of offending anyone. It didn’t matter to me. They once asked Walt Disney at a convention about 40-50 years ago, “What is your key to your success?” And Walt Disney said, “I cannot tell you my key to success, but I can tell you the key to failure. The key to failure is to try to please everybody.” So there you are. I didn’t try to please anyone. All of those reviewers, some it makes them feel terrible. Some praise it. Some are in between. That might be the key to its success because it doesn’t try to please everybody.
BUG: It deals with such an uncomfortable subject matter that, as a reviewer, it’s hard to be completely enthusiastic about it and say, “It’s great!” without making it seem like I’m condoning the acts that take place in the film. But to me, it’s a horror movie. It makes you feel uncomfortable. Horror’s supposed to make you feel that way.
MZ: Well, this is where I disagree. What is a horror movie? I don’t think it’s a horror movie. It’s a horrifying movie. It’s a horrifying subject. Because of the age of video, they thought it up to categorize films in order to sell them better. What do you call this film? Horror. What do you call that film? Classic. What do you call that film? Porno. I remember when the film came out on video in 1982, VHS tape, I saw the movie in various stores under the classics section. But remember that was the birth of the video age. It was in its cradle. Then a little while later I looked in the classics section and it was gone, so I go to the counter and said, “Hey what happened to it?” and they said, “Oh no, you can find it in the horror section.” But to me it’s horrifying, rather than horror.
BUG: If any, what type of message do you think I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE offers?
MZ: If I tell you and give you the message it had for me, it would cancel out all other messages. I don’t want to do that. I want leave it open and let anyone out there who sees the film to have their version of the message or if there is any message at all.
BUG: Fair enough. The film ends pretty abruptly. If you were forced to come up with what happens next for Jennifer, what would it be?
MZ: I already did. It’s a sequel I wrote for the movie. And if everything goes well, later this year, we may be going into pre-production.
BUG: That’s fantastic. I’d love to talk with you again when it gets closer to production.
MZ: You are welcome to, anytime. There’s another project I’m doing called DEATH WISH SUZOON which is a beautiful action adventure film. We are now shopping it about for who its going to go with at the moment. But we’re not sure yet who to do it with just yet.
BUG: Sounds very cool. Both the remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and the original are released this week on DVD and BluRay. Why should folks check out this film?
MZ: Something nice about this film is that I never had to sell it. It is what it is. I never had to convince folks to check it out. Both films have their own legs.
BUG: Thanks to all of you for taking the time to answer these questions. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
MZ: It’s been a joy speaking with you, Mark.
BUG: Both the original and the remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE are now available everywhere on BluRay & DVD this week.
Ambush Bug here with an ensemble interview focusing on the original and remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. I will be reviewing both films a bit further down the column, but let’s see what the remake’s writer/director Steven R. Monroe & actors Sarah Butler & Chad Lindberg had to say about I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE…
BUG: How did it come to be that you were to remake I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE?
STEVEN R MONROE (SRM): Cinetel Films had acquired the right to remake the film from Meir Zarchi. I heard about it and had worked with Cinetel before and told themthat they had to let me direct it. I lobbied [producer] Lisa Hansen for about a year until they were ready to go into production and I got the gig.
BUG: You stayed primarily close to the narrative of the original, but there are some definite changes and updates the film goes through in the remake. Can you explain your decisions to make the changes you did with the film?
SRM: There were several things I wanted to update in the actual story and luckily they were also things that Lisa, [producers] Paul Hertzberg and Neil Elman wanted to update also, one being that Jennifer does not use her sexuality to lure the men into her revenge and the other was to fill the void from the original as to why Jennifer never at least attempts to go the authorities. For the most part I feel that it is important to start trueto a film's original story, plot, and characters when remaking. If not, you are just using a title to make money.
BUG: I mentioned this distinction in my review. Why didn't Jennifer use her sexuality in your version of the film as a means to get back at her attackers?
SRM: That storyline was one thing in the original that I had a big problem with. It almost made me lose some emotion toward Jennifer and what she has gone through. I was very happy to find out that Lisa Hansen also did not want that as part of the remake. My feelings were that she in no way whatsoever would need to use that. She would have the rage and the strength to go after these guys with something she never knew she had inside. She is not the same person anymore, she is forever changed and I for one have noproblem believing that a woman who had gone through what Jennifer did and then was once again face to face with her attackers, the men who beat her, brutalized her and repeatedly raped her then left her for dead could be capable of anything physically. That's what i really wanted to portray this time around. That's me....
BUG: You definitely upped the ante concerning the revenge enacted in this film. How did you come up with the imaginative kills Jennifer performs on her rapists?
SRM: I wish I could take credit for the ideas but they were mostly on the page when I came on board, I was just responsible as to how they made it from the page to the screen and the thing that was most important to me was that the set pieces were believable to what Jennifer could get her hands on, they needed to have a sense of resourcefulness and rawness.
BUG: What did you think of the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE when you first saw it?
SRM: It stayed with me for several days, and to me that means it was a disturbing and upsetting film, and I respect disturbing and upsetting films.
BUG: What went into the casting of the key roles in this film, especially the role of Jennifer? What were you looking for in an actress to play her?
SRM: For me it just comes down to finding believable actors, that is step one. With finding the right Jennifer it was simple this time, Sarah was the second audition tape I watched and I knew she was the one. She has a true natural beauty, a real sweet innocence but a strength deep down and that was everything I wanted for Jennifer.
BUG: Dealing with the subject of rape is always a controversial matter. How did you approach this tricky subject matter knowing that there would be a lot of people who would feel strongly about this topic?
CHAD LINDBERG (CL): Carefully and respectfully. It's a definitely a strong topic for a lot of people and it should be. It's a horrific act. I don't understand how anyone can assault someone. It's unfathomable to me. We shot these scenes with respect. We wanted to shoot it truthfully and not glamorize it.
SRM: You cannot approach it with any concerns of what people will think. I could only focus on making it what it is, a truly horrific act of psychological and physical violence against a woman. I think for a major part many movies have failed to do that, and if I am called things or accused of things as I have been for attempting to show the true horror and brutality of rape then so be it.
SARAH BUTLER (SB): There isn't any leeway as far as approaching a script. The script tells the story, and you follow the script. I know this movie isn't for everyone, and I hope each person can be responsible for themselves in making the decision of whether to see this film or not.
BUG: Both films end abruptly. If you were forced to come up with what happens next for Jennifer, what would it be?
SB: Well, I'd want the best for her, but you and I both know that she's all sorts of messed up when we leave her. I'd like to see Jennifer actually deal with the emotional repercussions of her ordeal. It would be cool to answer the question "what's next?" in a very realistic way, with the same brutal honesty in which we told of Jennifer's rape.
CL: To definitely move out of the cabin!! Perhaps go back to the city. Get some therapy. Then maybe try to turn her experience into some good and help other victims like her. Or perhaps just move out of the country all together. Head to France and write her new novel.
SRM: The abrupt ending of both, the last image of Jennifer in both, what you see in her eyes, her soul or what is left of it, how her body language hangs portray for me exactly what is next for her. That is why I love the abruptness of both endings and why I wanted to duplicate Meir's final shot from his original.
BUG: Sarah & Chad, have you seen the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE? What were your thoughts on the film?
SB: I rented it right after booking the role. Of course, at that point, I knew what to expect, but it was still impossible to not be affected by the brutality of the film. I found myself clenching every muscle in my body as the rape segment concluded, and I had to forcibly will myself to relax. I had more feelings about the film than thoughts. It affected me viscerally. I knew I wanted to replicate that physical reaction for our audiences.
CL: I have indeed. I actually was not aware that it was a remake until after I'd gotten cast. After I got the part I started to look online and realize this movie has a SERIOUS Cult history. Just before shooting I watched the movie. I got a little self-conscious of the volume on the TV during the horrific scenes. I thought my neighbors must be like..."What's he watching?!!" The movie left me a little speechless. You can't fit that movie into a few words. I appreciate where Meir was coming from. I appreciate how the film was made and I respect its notorious role in movie history.
BUG: Knowing the physical and psychological impact a role of this sort may have, how did you prepare for this film?
SB: I tried not to think about the impact you speak of too much. I didn't want to guard myself from those feelings, although they were scary to confront. I had to allow myself to be open, vulnerable, trusting, in order to be shocked by the violence that was directed at me. When I signed onto the film, I resigned myself to experiencing those terrible feelings.
BUG: Sarah, what was it like doling out all of that brutal redemption in the film?
SB: It was fun, and challenging. For the first time, I had to control all the scenes, I had all the dialogue, all the action. And so much undercurrent of hate running through the whole time. And I had to deal with tons of special effects, like prosthetic eyelids, teeth and gums, and all sorts of weapons. It got messy, and there was a lot to think about and juggle, but it was nice not to be the tortured one for once.
BUG: Chad, what was it like being the receiver of such brutal redemption?
CL: Sarah kicked my ass!!!! Hey my character more than deserved it. I remember having a brutally bruised leg for about 2 weeks after. I'd never seen it so black and blue before. It's one of my favorite scenes in the movie because you sort of feel bad for Matthew but you don't. You can see that Jennifer is torn as well, with him. But he did what he did and must be held accountable. I will say however I think I got off the easiest out of all the guys in our redemptions. Some of my fellow actors got tied up in WAY worse positions. So in that respect...I think I lucked out during filming.
BUG: You receive an especially brutal demise in the film. Can you go into some detail about the effects that were used and your experiences with them?
CL: They put these HUGE exploding squibs on me. Front AND back. I've never seen them that big before in my life, and I've been squibbed up many times. I was really nervous. You can feel the live charge as it goes off. Also they had a blow cannon that was filled with blood, guts, and body parts loaded right in front of me. All at once things are being shot and exploding. You get one shot and the timing has to be perfect. I was shaking afterward. It looked amazing though!!
BUG: If any, what type of message do you think I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE offers?
SRM: There is no message, only hopefully what the film makes you think, wonder and feel.
SB: Don't go too deep guys--we all know this is a film that is for your own sick viewing pleasure, and that is it. But if I had to choose a message, I guess it would be "watch who you mess with".
CL: That's a tough one. It has been called many things and it is a movie that you really can't fit into a box. Sometimes in film we show ugly truths of certain aspects of life. We've all been wronged by someone before. Whether it is a verbal assault or physical, what do our minds do? They act out little scenarios of what you'd like to say or do to the people that hurt you. But we don't. We just think it. We don’t actually act on it. I've had a couple of victims of assault tell me they are looking forward to the movie so they can at least see these guys get what they deserve. I'll let the viewer decide what message it brings. At the end of the day...it's just a movie. A Grindhouse Horror Flick. It is a conversation starter, for sure.
BUG: What's next for all of you?
SB: Trying to follow-up I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE? Not an easy task! Don't think I’ll get hired on TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL any time soon... But I would like to contrast this role in some way. I'm being very picky and reading lots of stuff, waiting for that perfect project to come my way.
SRM: Unfortunately I cannot discuss my next few projects at the moment, literally maybe in a few days... Sorry.
CL: Keeping busy!!! I have an episode of THE CAPE coming out on Feb. 7th. I play a villain in that as well. His name is "Hicks" and he's an eccentric assassin. I think it is "The Year of the Villain" for me ;) What's next after that? I'd like to be able to hopefully work on a TV series of my own.
BUG: Both the remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and the original are released this week on DVD and BluRay. Why should folks check out this film?
CL: Because the original is a piece of Cinema History and the remake is a contemporary vision of the story that updates it for today’s audiences. The issues and questions raised by the original are still pertinent today, and this remake should be seen as well, if you can stomach it. It's not for everybody. If you're in the mood to watch a good dark disturbing movie, then check out this film. I've watched the remake with theater audiences and people were clapping and cheering as Jennifer is getting her revenge on these awful men. I've never heard so much noise in one theater. It gets a reaction out of people for sure. Enter at your own risk;)
SRM: I can only say that if you appreciate films that make you think, make you question, upset, push buttons, provoke debate... If you like violent, disturbing films that don't feed you all the answers of how they want you to feel and what you should think and sew up all the loose ends and questions in a nice tidy little package... Then check it out. If you are a fan of the original then totally check it out.
SB: Because it is a quality film in every aspect and we are all proud of it. Plus, I can guarantee there are no other films out there quite like this one. You'll just have to see it to know what I mean! Also available on Netflix folks!
BUG: Thanks to all of you for taking the time to answer these questions. Both the original and the remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE are now available everywhere on BluRay & DVD this week.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVEThe Original (1978)
AKA DAY OF THE WOMAN, I HATE YOUR GUTS, THE RAPE & REVENGE OF JENNIFER HILL, THE HOUSATONIC REVENGE
Directed & Written by Meir Zarchi
Starring Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann
The Remake (2010)
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Written by Stuart Morse
Starring Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, & Andrew Howard
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE does for rape what JAWS did for swimming…
OK, ok. That was my only joke. I know rape isn’t a laughing matter. It’s about as disgusting a crime one person can enact upon another. Though some would hop atop their high horse and not even want to talk about a film dealing with such heinous subject matter, the pair of films we are going to look at today, as exploitative as they may be, are horror films. And this being AICN HORROR, it’s as good a place as any to discuss I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE here.
A young beautiful city girl makes her way to a secluded cabin in the woods for some peace and quiet in order to write her novel. On her way there, she runs into a group of locals at a gas station who at first are flirtatious with the girl, but soon their actions become more lecherous. The men track down the woman to her cabin and proceed to brutalize and rape her and finally, leave her for dead. But the girl doesn’t die. She goes on a revenge-fueled rampage, killing the men with as much savagery as was enacted upon her.
That’s the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE in a nutshell and, for the most part, the remake that was released in theaters last fall and was just released on DVD and BluRay this week follows the same storyline. Both are diabolical films. Both are ruthless in both the rape itself and the redemption Jennifer doles out on her attackers. But the films do differ in certain areas, making both of these films somewhat different takes on the same story and worth checking out for these differences.
For the most part, there are two horrific components to this story; the rape and the revenge. The first I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a pure exploitation film. Optimal film distribution was not taken into consideration in its making and it shows. This film doesn’t give a shit about who it offends. The original emphasizes on the multiple rapes the central figure endures more so than the revenge she takes. The revenge, as grueling as it is, takes second stage to the original act upon Jennifer, happening much quicker (or maybe it just seemed that way to me given that the rape itself was so hard to watch). The sheer amount of time the camera lingers on the rape scenes lets one know where the emphasis lies with this one. Sitting through it is an uncomfortable experience. The film is an unblinking eye on the multiple violations of a woman. There are no quick cuts. No fades to black. We see it all. And it is brutal and ugly and chillingly real. Because of this unblinking eye, it is undeniably a horror film, offering the viewer a glimpse of something terrifying that they have not seen before, no matter how awful it is.
The remake has the same elements at play, but it is much more of a studio movie than the original. Whereas the original lingered longer on the rape, the remake shows one harrowing scene, then creatively uses fades, blurring, and other camera effects and narrative tricks to speed past the initial crime so it can spend more time on the revenge. Though working with the same subject matter, this distinction makes the remake a skosh more digestible for mass audiences. As brutal and wince-inducing as it is, the rape in the remake isn’t nearly as gratuitous as the original. The remake’s overemphasis and complexity of the revenge Jennifer takes on her rapists is not for the squeamish. I was surprised how gory this film gets toward the end, but somehow, despite that I found the film much less grueling to watch than the original, probably because of this eye towards the revenge over the rape.
Another distinction between the two is that the original plays with the common misguided notion among many rapists that “the girl wanted it” more so than in the remake. After the initial act in the original film, Jennifer lures her victims in sexually, leading the rapists to believe their actions actually appealed to her. The remake doesn’t really want to go there and sheds that theme, making this new Jennifer almost a soulless death machine that hunts down her victims and snarls with every beat of a bat or slice of a hedge clipper. The new Jennifer is pure rage (something modern audiences could understand more), whereas the original used all of the feminine charm that initially attracted the rapists to her in the first place. Again, this distinction makes the remake and the original completely different films.
Both films do a great job of illustrating the shock Jennifer is in shortly after she is raped. There’s a surreal scene in the woods in the original as Jennifer walks beaten and dirty through a forest and finds herself surrounded once again by the men in a forest clearing. The tall trees in the foreground and the thick forest surrounding make for a prison of sorts for the young girl, the creepiness intensified by a soulful harmonica played by one of her rapists. This scene is repeated in the remake almost to the exact same hyper-natural effect. Both directors do a fantastic job of capturing a dream-like fugue of this girl’s world at that particular, horrific moment.
Should I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE have been remade? I don’t know. It’s a cautionary tale of sorts. Possibly a pitch for female empowerment. Possibly an exploitation of female weakness thinly veiled with cautionary messages and notions of empowerment. If anything it functions more as a cautionary tale for men not to rape women in the woods. After talking with both directors and especially hearing director Meir Zarchi’s telling of how this film came to be, I think the film is a bit more complex than your typical rape/revenge exploitation. Both films are grueling glimpses at how horrible people can be. Both were highly effective in that it made me feel uncomfortable for different reasons. But true horror is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and its remake are films of true horror.
And finally, with all of the spitting going on in this column, I couldn’t help but lighten the mood a bit and present you all with this—Take it away, John and June!
See ya, next week, folks!
Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN Horror’s Facebook page!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the names to purchase)!
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Feb. 7, 2011, 10:41 a.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Who STILL cries "first!" in this day and age?
Feb. 7, 2011, 10:58 a.m. CST
I've never seen the original or the remake, but I reckon I might hunt 'em down now. Looking forward to next week's treat.
Feb. 7, 2011, 11:08 a.m. CST
I bet you say that to all the ladies ;)
Feb. 7, 2011, 11:10 a.m. CST
Feb. 7, 2011, 11:14 a.m. CST
it's actually much better than I thought it would be. People say the rape is'nt as bad but it's plenty terrible & I havent seen the org. in ages. The kills are pretty well done and the style and look of the film is quality. I'm surprised this did'nt get a wide release considering the crap that gets put out there..... perhaps if it had been in 3-D.
Feb. 7, 2011, 11:28 a.m. CST
by jason john
"Horror" is used as a title abit too much for films that are not horrific, gory or scary. All credit to how they did the remake as I was expecting a toned down, more P.C. version, but the revenge scenes are a bit different & a bit nastier I thought. Ive read professional critics having a moan about it but really, you know what you are going to get with this type of film so if you dont like it or are easily offended, then simply dont watch it ! Just a shame the Halloween & Friday The 13th remakes were such a let down.
Feb. 7, 2011, noon CST
Still looks pretty good actually...
Feb. 7, 2011, 12:17 p.m. CST
I honestly dont know why they bothered to remake it in that the original is still quite a shocking experience to endure. I always had an idea in my head that the remake would be like a female version of The Punisher Frank Castle mixed in with Hostel/Saw type gore horror. But it was a bland remake. Even the kill/gore scenes didnt carry any emotional weight in their execution. I didnt know about Zarchi's experience with the traumatised woman in the park, but i can see the horror of that in his movie. I would love to know what Zarchi's opinion is of modern horror thrillers like Eden Lake and Roth's Hostel.
Feb. 7, 2011, 1:38 p.m. CST
For Christ sake, son. Nonetheless, a fine bunch o interviews, and a solid review. I dunno what to make about that sequel news, mind you (although at least one semi-official sequel exists already). And because I'm dirty, if you're after another take on the whole ISOYG vs ISOYG 2010 whatsit, here are words: http://blogcritics.org/video/article/movie-review-i-spit-on-your1/
Feb. 7, 2011, 3:57 p.m. CST
...in which Jennifer Hills's sister gets raped and Jennifer goes all Paul Kersey. Fuck, do an entire series. 'I Still Spit on Your Grave', 'I Will Always Spit on Your Grave', 'I Spit on Your Grave 4: Knives Versus Knobs'.
Feb. 7, 2011, 6:06 p.m. CST
Why would the two actors in the re-make, just days before shooting, watch the original? It would seem they would want to go into the shoot knowing as little about the original as possible to maybe prevent duplicating it or at least putting a different spin on it. I can't help but think they were affected by watching the original and having it fresh in their minds. Anyway, I'm gonna have to check out the remake. It's been a while since I've seen the original though, but I still remember it. It's just too bad that movies like this, or even remakes of movies like this don't get much play in cinemas. I'd have named the re-make "Day of the Woman." I bet it would have had a better shot at some distribution with that title.
Feb. 8, 2011, 11:08 p.m. CST
for a few years. Zarchi didn't mention that...
Feb. 9, 2011, 1:57 a.m. CST
Feb. 9, 2011, 1:58 a.m. CST
I am very sorry.
Feb. 9, 2011, 6:54 a.m. CST
It's basically just, "Hey, let's film an hour of a woman getting fucked by hillbillies! Oh wait...we still have some stock left? Eh, I guess we might as well do some sort of revenge thing or the other." Calling it some sort of empowerment film is the height of jokes. The remake actually feels like a movie. You know, Irreversible had a pretty long rape scene too, but that never felt like it was designed for 40 year old virgins to jerk off to.
Feb. 9, 2011, 8:46 a.m. CST
by Ambush Bug
I can't disagree more. If one's jerking off to the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, help is neeeded. Having spoken with the director, I think there's a little more to the film than you are seeing and you might be letting the limited budget get in the way of your judgment.
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