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Five Hearts

"Revenge is a dish best served with lye and

swamp water."

Written by Steven Walker

I am a bad person.  This is the only conclusion I can come to when I compare my reaction to the remake of I Spit on Your Grave to that of my colleagues.  I have read multiple reviews which denounce the film for its brutality, depravity, and pointlessness.  Even the reviewers who liked it go out of their way to stress how it pushes the boundaries of what should be allowed on camera.

Myself?  I thought it was too tame.  I thought it held back right when I wanted it to show more.  I thought it promised a new level of moral ambiguity to the story and then failed to deliver.  The original 1978 film lives in infamy because it dared to go places cinema had never gone before.  The remake doesn’t show me anything that I haven’t see in a Saw movie. 

That said, I really enjoyed it.  It was a great ride, and deaths in horror movies rarely get more satisfying or cathartic than they do here.  Now before you get all uppity, let me restate that.  Yes, I enjoyed watching a movie where a woman is brutally raped, then murders her rapists in even more brutal ways.  There are many people who would accuse me of moral depravity and ask how I could possible enjoy such as experience.  The answer is simple: it’s just a movie.  The woman is not actually getting raped.  The men are not actually getting murdered.  That’s the beauty of cinema…it allows us to explore all corners of the human experience, even the dark and filthy ones, in a safe environment where no one is actually getting hurt.  Knowing it is fiction allows me to watch and enjoy just about anything. I want to feel the terror, the disgust, the humiliation, and ultimately the triumph because it’s really all a big game.  I would also argue that exploring these darker emotions in a sterile setting makes one better prepared for them should them be encountered in real life.     

The thing about the 1978 film that always bothered me was the seduction angle.  I never fully believed that the girl would be willing to seduce her rapists before killing them.  That element pushed the film more directly into the exploitation/soft core porn arena.  In the remake Jennifer is transformed into a spirit of vengeance, and filmed not unlike the monsters in slasher movies.  The fact the movie switches perspective from her to the attackers after the rape is kind of brilliant.  It almost makes you sympathize with them, and the actors deserve special mention for creating believable performances.  It would be easy to depict the rapists as cartoon caricatures, but here they actually seem like real people. 

And the kills.  Oh my…what great kills.  I love how each kill is tailored to the victim, and utilizes items that were shown to us early in the film.  Some people have complained that they are overly elaborate and mousetrap like, but I love that.  We know Jennifer has some degree of imagination as a writer and we know she spends an entire month in the woods preparing her revenge.  Those two facts make it very easy for me to accept the nature of her traps.

Where the movie disappoints is the reveal of the Sheriff’s pregnant wife and daughter.  I so badly wanted one of two things to happen:  1. Jennifer forces the wife and daughter to watch the video of her getting raped.  2. She kills the daughter right in front of the Sheriff.

Number one just seems like a missed opportunity.  I think it would have been amazing to see the Sheriff’s wife and daughter confronted with the reality of who he is.  It would have been the ultimate revenge, and really, there is no filmmaking excuse for not going there.

I understand why she didn’t kill the daughter, but a part of me wanted it because of the huge moral ambiguity it would have added.  As it is, I don’t begrudge Jennifer one bit.  Her attackers deserved exactly what they got.  It she had killed the daughter, I wouldn’t know what to feel.  I’d still be wrestling with that ugly moral mess, and it would have given the film a more lasting impact. 

Recommendations are hard for this one.  I really liked it, but very few folks share my tolerance for fictional depravity.  If you know what you’re getting into, this is a must-see.  If the very thought turns your stomach, then why are you reading this review in the first place?     




Copyright 2008 Flaming Heart Enterprises, L.L.C.