Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I Spit on this Film

Film critic Roger Ebert was never a fan of the original I Spit on your Grave: a cult exploitation movie concerning the graphic serial gang-rape of a hapless young woman and the subsequent revenge on her attackers. In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times dated 16th July 1980, Ebert talks of how he watched the film at a seemingly respectable Chicago cinema but was taken aback by the shocking content of the film and appalled by the reaction of a middle-aged, white-haired man two seats down from him who after the first rape scene shouted: "That was a good one!". After the second rape scene the same man screamed: "That'll show her!" After the third rape he proclaimed: "I've seen some good ones, but this is the best." It's no surprise Ebert summed up his review of I Spit on your Grave by calling it a, "vile bag of garbage."

30 years on it seems feminism in movies is backtracking as Anchor Bay Films gets ready to unleash a pointless remake of an already pointless film. It seems the all new I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE reboot will land in American cinemas in October 2010 but with a certain caveat: the film will be released in theatres without certification. It turns out the MPPA balked at what they saw and instructed the producers to make 110 cuts in order grant a Restricted rating. Anchor Bay Films decided not to hinder the 'integrity' of their remake and have opted to meet with cinema owners directly in effort to get around the ratings system. They will have a fight on their hands and will probably lose, but their remake is apparently budgeted at a mere $1.5 million so their chance of profiting through various ancillary media seems fairly good.

My problem with I Spit on Your Grave (the original one as I haven't seen the remake) is that it's nothing more than violent porn designed to titillate. Fans defend it by extolling the empowering character arc of the rape victim who pirouettes from oppressed to oppressor by cutting off the cocks and bollocks of men who attacked her. She does this by utilising her sexuality in order to coax and then torture them. It's a fairly simplistic treatment of a hugely complex and humiliating experience and the new remake is said to replicate the same beats of the old narrative. Truth be told, the new I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is not a feminist discourse concerning the horrors of rape, but is essentially an excuse for guys to get a hard-on by watching a woman get gangbanged. The coda of revenge is simply an addendum to nullify true criticisms directed at the film. You only have to look at the poster for proof of what I mean.

Universal released their remake of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left last year, which was a similar tale of rape and revenge. Although the rape scene in that film was terribly uncomfortable to watch, it was aided by a compelling story and rather good acting. It was also made on a larger budget than the remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. It went on to earn $33 million at the US box office, which may have made the prospect of remaking I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE all the more feasible. For all my problems with The Last House on the Left, I can accept that it attempts to be a morality tale about vengeance. That's an argument I find hard applying to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE as I just ventured on to a popular film message board where one reader writes, "Are the rape scenes hot?" It seems the witless middle-aged, white-haired man who sat two seats down from Ebert is still very much alive and active on the internet.

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