When it was announced that Meir Zarchi's infamous rape-revenge film "I Spit on Your Grave" was getting the remake treatment, the reaction from me wasn't "why" as much as it was "how?" I mean, I can see people giving their hand at remaking films like "The Toolbox Murders" and "The Amityville Horror" because when you get down to it, those are easier films to remake. How in the world do you remake a film with a long gang-rape scene, and a revenge that includes a memorably nasty castration? It seems to be impossible. Well, in the case of Steven R. Monroe, you do it by making the gang rape shorter, and add some modern elements such as prolonged torture of the rapists. Amazingly enough, it works better than you'd think.
The plot is pretty much the same for the most part. Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) is a writer on retreat in a cabin in the woods, where she's raped by a pair of hillbillies-Johnny (Jeff Branson), Andy (Rodney Eastman), Stanley (Daniel Franzese) and the mentally handicapped Matthew (Chad Lindberg). In case you're wondering "were are the police?", well, sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard) joined them. Thing is though, they didn't kill her, and Jennifer's going to get violent, painful revenge for what they did to her.
If there's anything that hurts the movie (other than the fact that most will hate it or avoid it), its that nobody other than Sarah Butler and Tracey Walker as Earl, the lone good man in the movie, is a particularly good actor. While the rapists are sick and repellent as they should be, the actors seem to try too hard to make them backwoods rednecks, at times making them look almost like caricatures. Its probably authentic (I can totally buy them sitting by their trailers, drinking beer at 10:00 AM and listening to Southern Rock) in the way they act, but hearing the unconvincing Southern accents and poor dialogue the actors are given, its hard not to chuckle when we see them in their daily lives.
Apart from that, this is bleak, nihilistic stuff-which is pretty much the same tone as the original. Sure, there are differences, but the movie itself largely complements the ugly, grimy feeling of the original while still feeling like its own movie. The sexually assaults may not be as graphic or prolonged as they were in the original (I remember fast forwarding it back in the day, and still feeling violated), but they are still incredibly grueling to sit through. It helps that Butler does such a good job as Jennifer. She's a smart, sympathetic girl whose actually given some back story this time around (another difference from the original), and you just can't help but root for her as she knocks off each rapist in graphic, gruesome fashion.
Speaking of her payback, I have heard people say that the film ends up resembling something like a slasher movie or a "Saw" style torture flick. While her payback is much more graphic than it was in the original, I accepted that, realizing that this is ultimately a remake, so some things are going to be changed and made more graphic. Plus, it fits the unrelenting nature of the movie, as each of these guys are ultimately getting what they deserve.
I can't say its as disturbing as the original, but the remake of "I Spit on Your Grave" is a movie you'll either be able to sit through or not. Me? I wanted to turn it off during the rape scenes, but then I remembered "hey, fast forward is much quicker than it used to be" and used that. That out of the way, it does end up being a sadistic yet strangely watchable revenge movie on its own right, and shouldn't piss off those that can stomach it.