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Toronto After Dark 2010: I Spit on Your Grave

“Horror fans finally have a remake worthy of the original…”

I Spit on Your Grave

Dir. Steven R. Monroe (2010, USA, 107 mins.)

Though the horror remake is fairly ubiquitous at today’s cinema, and though most horror remakes have been terrible, fans of Meir Zarchi’s 1978 controversial film can breath a sigh of relief. Director Steven Monroe has declared that fans of the original are the people he would like to please the most. With a few exceptions, I suspect that he has succeeded: fans of the original I Spit on Your Grave, as well as torture films in general, will enjoy themselves. However, it remains doubtful that anyone else will want to subject themselves to this film.

With any remake, it is important to consider why remaking a film at all. Most horror remakes have no raison d’etre, though they might provide a creative outlet for third-rate directors, much in the same way that misspelled fan fiction provides a creative outlet for exceptionally awkward teenagers. Thankfully, Monroe bucked the trend and made a horror remake for the all the right reasons. The original I Spit on Your Grave is beset by some unfortunate technical problems, poor production quality, and little in the way of story. Monroe addresses these issues, and the product is crisply shot, competently produced, and attempts to portray more fully realized characters.

The great controversies of this film (well, the original, but by extension, also this film) concern whether or not the film exploitive, whether it is misogynistic, and how a feminist ought to interpret it.

No matter what Zarchi says, I Spit on Your Grave is obviously an exploitation film. The film relies on lurid overstatement of rape and revenge. It is called an exploitation film by people who don’t nessisarily mean it as a bad thing. Though the rape is not eroticized, it is certainly sensationalized. Furthermore, the violence of the revenge in this remake is creative enough to give the Saw series a run for its money; fans undoubtedly will cheer with the increasing intricacy of each rapist’s death.

As for the other two controversies, I will say this. Firstly, this film has more to do with the hatred of people as a whole than women in particular. Secondly, both people who like and people who dislike this film will invoke feminism simply as a means to justify their taste. Whilst I am unconvinced that this film is empowering because the woman gets her revenge, I am equally unconvinced that this film glorifies rape. Dehumanising a character until she becomes the physical embodiment of vengeance is hardly empowering. A twenty-minute sex scene involving guns and illiterate hillbillies does not glorify rape. In fact, the only person who might buy into both of those arguments is Ayn Rand. Nobody is empowered by this film, nor is anything glorified.

The bottom line is this: horror fans finally have a remake worthy of the original, and everyone else has another film to avoid.

– Dave Robson