I’m The Real Victim Here: I Spit On Your Grave Remade and Revisited

Published on March 30th, 2011 in: Back Off Man I'm A Feminist, DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Feminism, Horror, Issues, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Michelle Patterson

Victimhood has had an ironic stranglehold on cinema since the medium’s very inception. The “woman’s picture,” along with the romantic comedy and action-adventure genres, tap into the potential for an audience to live both vicariously through the film and also fully explore their empathetic side. The horror film has also allowed this to continue for over a century now.

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When I initially started this project, it was to compare and contrast the original I Spit On Your Grave and its soon-to-be-released remake. Fortunately for me, the deadline for the piece didn’t correspond with when the remake would hit theatres. Revisiting the original with a different approach led to an appreciation, of sorts, to what it (accidentally) revealed about the nature of the basic elements of revenge. Sometimes billed as the ultimate woman’s picture, I Spit On Your Grave promised that we would understand exactly why no jury would convict the female protagonist even though she had brutally killed multiple men. I spoke of finding a release and a sense of peace through acceptance and usage of the same brutality used against her. There is no getting off, in the truest sense of the word.

I don’t utilize the term “torture porn” as it intimates that the audience enjoys the actual torture on the screen. What I believe the audience really enjoys is the feeling of exhaling during a particularly tense or brutal moment. The remake of I Spit On Your Grave is relentless, however, and part of that lies within its biggest divergence from the original film: The audience is prevented from participating in the transformation from victim to vigilante; the film removes the impression of any sort of healing process. The blatant muddying of the victim’s motive results in the audience becoming less likely to root for her beyond some vague sense of justice.

There is no justice in this remake, only horrific and meaningless violence. We don’t see the shell hardening around the protagonist; we don’t witness her steeling herself for revenge and providing a sense of temporary catharsis. She doesn’t take back her power in any constructive way. Instead, she disappears into what seems to be a successful suicide attempt and while unseen for at least 20-30 minutes, becomes pure monster. She transforms into a mysterious, all-powerful, quasi-serial killer.

Elaborate traps are set and rope-and-pulley systems are implemented in order to bring the pain in an extreme way, and thus it is not too surprising to feel a little bit of sympathy for the torture these men undergo. Rather than spending the time attempting to understand or come to any sort of conclusion regarding this horrifying situation or anything resembling logic, apparently our heroine has just spent it watching the Saw film series on regular rotation and perfecting a soulless stare.

Our protagonist is a cipher; we never learn anything about her besides her self-made moniker of “writer.” In the original, we see her taking in her surroundings, exploring the local area. In the update she does not attempt to connect with the town or its ways other than a hugely telegraphed attempt at help from the local sheriff. In the 1978 version, there is a specific method in her approach to writing and a pattern (or at least a work ethic) established. But in the modern-day version? Besides two scenes with her on her laptop and a glass or two of wine, who is she? It definitely doesn’t matter to the filmmakers or the actors, so why should the audience bother to gather up any empathy or understanding?

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