I Spit on Your Grave Remake

27 May 2010 at 13:43 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

***Many spoilers follow, so if you’ve not yet seen the original ISOYG, skip this review

Of all the horror films to remake, 1979’s I Spit on Your Grave (also known as Day of the Woman) seems a somewhat unlikely choice. That brutal, rape-revenge film made waves upon its first release with the likes of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert who critiqued its prolonged scenes of sexual assault. It also featured problematic portrayals of the working class and mentally disabled. Though the linkage between lower-classness and sadistic violence remains acceptable mainstream fare, negative representations of disability seem more touchy these days. In short, an I Spit on Your Grave remake seems like a huge risk. Check out the original trailer and see for yourself:

Then again, I Spit on Your Grave does fit in nicely with two concurrent cycles in American horror: torture porn and remakes. As you can see in the trailer, the film involves the gang-rape of Jennifer, a big city writer renting a cabin in a rural area. After surviving her ordeal, Jennifer hunts down each of her attackers, dispatching them with gruesome precision. Based on the IMDB synopsis, it appears that the remake retains much of the original’s basic structure with a few adjustments that I will discuss below. But first, the trailer:

A few observations:

1) Night and Day Aesthetics – Hand-held camera work seems to have replaced the more detached cinematography of the original. The overall color-scheme feels darker than the original, with lots of night scenes and a heightening of blues and greens (probably through filters). This change interests me, given that one of the more shocking elements of the original was the way that the gang-rape occurred in broad daylight. From all appearances, the new film presents Jennifer’s rape as occurring at night and following a break in into her home. My guess would be that filmmakers felt these changes would be a) more realistic to today’s audiences and b) more creepy and atmospheric.

2) Context? – The original ISOYG contextualizes the violence against Jennifer in terms of tensions based on class and gender; the male perpetrators regularly make sexist remarks and criticize Jennifer’s urban sophistication. Surprisingly, the trailer for the latest ISOYG provides very little information about what motivates the rapists, instead focusing on Jennifer. I wonder if the remake will make these connections between misogyny and rape clear or merely assume them to be implied.

3) Targeting – Siskel and Ebert claimed that the audiences that attended screenings of the original consisted primarily of men who cheered on the perpetrators during the rape scenes. While I have some skepticism about Siskel and Ebert’s accounts, I imagine that it’s highly likely that men attended these screenings more than women due to the cultural presumptions about the appropriateness of violent films for women. The remake’s trailer, though, seems targeted primarily toward lady viewers by encouraging viewer identification with Jennifer (generally, Hollywood marketers assume that women identify with women characters and men with men). This doesn’t surprise me, given the recent marketing research that suggests women comprise the majority of horror audiences.

In the end, I am pretty lukewarm on this project, primarily because of my mixed feelings about the original. Given the involvement of the original film’s producers and director, I expect that the motivation for revisiting this material has more to do with cashing in than fleshing out the implications of the original. I hope the new film proves me wrong, but with the tagline “It’s date night,” I shudder to think.

Promotional poster for the I Spit on Your Grave remake. Image taken from dreadcntral.com

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3 Comments

  1. A.Y. Siu said,

    This change interests me, given that one of the more shocking elements of the original was the way that the gang-rape occurred in broad daylight.

    From a feminist perspective, this definitely seems like a step backwards. The trailer for the remake seems to imply some kind of stranger surprise-attack break-in rape, which is the popular narrative for rape, even though the vast majority of rapes are acquaintance, date, or marital rapes. Even though the original may be problematic in many ways, it is at least honest in its portrayal of rape as being likely to take place in broad daylight and by people you know (even if not people you know well).

    • c8ic8 said,

      I completely agree that the latest film seems much more in-line with traditional portrayals of rape, which are problematic in emphasizing that the violence is always or mostly perpetrated by a stranger after a home invasion or in a dark scary place. I’m suspending my judgement at this point since I haven’t seen the entire film, but it does seem likely that these changes will be, as you said, “a step backwards.”

  2. Neo-Revenge in Two Styles « Dark Room said,

    […] rework the revenge formula for new audiences. Revenge remakes have enjoyed a revival of sorts (see my speculation on one such effort), but new stories have emerged as well. Two recent screenings I attended […]

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