Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Spit On Your Grave 2 (2013)

The fact alone that there's a sequel to the remake of I Spit On Your Grave is pretty curious. The purpose of developing a franchise would be to milk money out of the entertainment value of the premise. I could believe it of the original movie from 1978, which was pure exploitation cinema. But the remake seemed to take the subject more seriously, and once it was done, I would have thought it was done. The sequel, however, not being a continuation of the story concluded in the first movie, is actually a transplant of the archetypal plot - a vulnerable woman is brutally gang-raped by a group of men then left for dead, but turns around and exacts sadistic, murderous revenge on her tormenters - into a new setting.

And it does a damn fine job of justifying its own existence, as it's a far more effective and entertaining (even in its cringe-worthy display of grotesqueries, which is admittedly part of the "draw", or at least reputation, of the series) movie than the remake was. I was thinking, after watching the remake, that the basic outline of the story could easily be transplanted to a more believable setting. The over-exaggerated danger of uneducated country-folk has been elevated - thanks to movies like Deliverance, and the Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its progeny - to an exhausting cliche.

And while I Spit On Your Grave 2 channels the xenophobic anxieties of movies like Hostel, and the sex trafficking hysteria exploited by Taken - both no less reliant on culturally insensitive stereotyping - the risks a novice model faces in New York City at the hands of an unscrupulous photographer are at least more logically organic than that of an inexplicably young and beautiful novelist relocated to a similarly inexplicably nice cabin in an otherwise backwards, backwoods, nowhere town, mainly inhabited by sexually-deprived, inbred ingrates. And I say that as one who takes personal issue with the stereotype of creeps using the cover of "art" to exploit vulnerable women (as occurs in this sequel).

Above all, though, the writing and the acting is on a superior level in this movie compared to its predecessor. I was much more easily able to get into the story, and sympathize with the struggle of the characters (well, mainly, the heroine). There were some genuinely moving scenes, especially towards the end (even in spite of the religious undertones), and the revenge was more satisfying, even if as hard to stomach (or watch) as ever (I pray I don't have nightmares of the "vice" scene). If you have to watch just one I Spit On Your Grave movie - and, believe me, I won't think any less of you if you don't want to do even that much - I would pretty comfortably suggest this one, even though it's not as pure as the original from 1978, taking cues from other popular movies of the day. But it's the most polished and professional version of the story, to be sure.

And with all that said, it doesn't seem to me like there's any point in making any more I Spit On Your Grave movies, although this movie does pretty well set up the basic plot to be adapted (mass-market style) to any number of more-or-less modified settings. To do so would pretty much dry up the potency of the series in terms of its social significance, but I guess that's pretty much the point of franchises anyway, right? The one thing a daring and ambitious filmmaker could do, as first suggested to me by Tenzin Swift, that would make filming another I Spit On Your Grave movie a worthwhile endeavor, and one that I would support, would be to invert the formula and have a man take revenge on a group of women after being sexually brutalized by them. Love the idea or hate it, you can't deny that it would get people talking, and the reactions people would have would be extremely insightful, from a sociological perspective. Good art is about exploring the difficult questions in life, not the easy ones.


  1. Glad you appreciated this one like I did. Definitely the best of the bunch as far as I'm concerned. And I love that the priest and the cop, finally there are characters here who are good people. Does that ruin it? Are these films supposed to be about the inherent evil of people? I mean, in real life gang rape scenarios, there probably aren't a lot of heroes. Not sure I've ever heard a news story where someone intervenes. But real heroes do exist out there... somewhere... like Oskar Schindler and the like. I guess I can't help but to want to see those figures in a film like this.

  2. It's up for interpretation (obviously), but I don't think the presence of those characters ruins the movie. I consider them a saving grace. Whatever catharsis one might get from witnessing the rape and then reveling in the revenge, having an alternate example of good people not like the villains (especially males in a movie like this) can only be positive and healthy, if you ask me.