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I Spit on Your Grave: A bad idea then, a bad idea now

Sarah Butler in a scene from "I Spit on Your Grave": The biblical vigilantism unfolds as it must.

Steve Dietl

1 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

WHAT IS IT?

More to the point, what was it? Specifically, this is a remake of a flick that many think shouldn't have been made in the first place. Back in 1978, Day of the Woman pushed the then-popular vigilante theme to graphic and exploitative extremes. Extremely graphic because, as the theme ran its predictable course from victimhood to vengeance, the sex-violence meter got cranked up to awfully brutal, crude and explicit levels. Extremely exploitative because a lone woman, assaulted and raped by a gang of men, doubled as both the initial victim and the subsequent avenger.

So it's not hard to spot the tactics in the original. In its chauvinistic attack phase, that movie salaciously stripped and humiliated an attractive female; then, in the feminist counterattack segment, it ostensibly empowered the same woman, although only by having her embrace the very violence she endured.

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Yep, as strategies go, that's transparent stuff, but it obviously worked on a disgusted Roger Ebert who, in high dudgeon, pronounced it the worst movie ever made. Despite that superlative, the picture quickly disappeared, later to be semi-resurrected by the usual small cult of admirers/apologists, offering the usual arguments: The explicitness is disgusting because rape is disgusting, and (ain't it ingenious) the audience is meant to feel complicit in the offence.

And thus the film languished, awaiting its inevitable rebirth in this post-Abu Ghraib era of torture porn. All hail the second coming.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Exactly like the first, with a few narrative details altered but with the logical holes in the plot as massively absurd as ever. Jennifer the city gal (Sarah Butler) ventures to a cabin in the woods, where the red-neck country guys lie in wait, four of them simply vicious and the other just simple-minded. Of course, since even hicks pack a camera these days, the assault is videotaped in this version, an attempt to intensify our peeping-Tom complicity. From there, the biblical vigilantism unfolds as it must. The woman will suffer and then inflict suffering in kind - voyeurs will have their eyes plucked out, violators will be violated, the sodomizers sodomized.

And everyone will look and feel soiled, not least of all us.

DOES IT MATTER?

Nope. Sure, we in the media may try to make it matter, as many will condemn righteously and a few will praise faintly and others will compare the levels of explicitness, then and now, in a vain wish to read the barometer of social change. But, no, all that's as silly and wasteful as the picture itself, which is neither boring enough to qualify as pornography nor vital enough to generate a controversy. Damn, I can't even subject I Spit on Your Grave to the great expectorations it so badly desires.

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I Spit on Your Grave

  • Directed by Steven R. Monroe
  • Written by Stuart Morse
  • Starring Sarah Butler
  • Classification: 18A

I Spit on Your Grave opens in Toronto on Friday, Montreal on Oct. 22 and Ottawa on Oct. 29; Vancouver and Calgary dates to be determined.

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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