the crusher

It figures: I enjoy a wonderful weekend in North Carolina, hobnobbing with friends I haven’t seen for a couple years at least, and end it all by spectacularly spraining my left ankle late in the evening on my last day. No worries, I’m treating it with a strict regimen of Icy Hot, ice packs, and tasty snacks fetched for me by my boyfriend. I can’t walk very well, but I can hobble along without shouting “RRGH! ARGH! FUCK ME RUNNING SIDEWAYS,” unlike the hours immediately following my injury. Plus my foot is all swollen and purple. It’s like someone taped an eggplant to my leg!

Anyway, so I haven’t really been following the horror remake trend of the past few years, mostly because the quality of those I have seen has ranged from “eh” to “that director should have his bowels ripped out by wolves.” However, I have recently learned that some doofus intends to remake I Spit On Your Grave. For those of you who don’t know your horror/exploitation movie history, the 1978 original is about Jennifer Hill, a New York magazine writer who goes to the countryside to write a novel. She’s gang-raped, beaten, and left for dead by a group of good ol’ boys; she survives and goes on to wreak bloody, creative revenge on all of them (bathtub castration and speedboat disembowelment, for instance). Director Meir Zarchi has said he was inspired to make the film after helping out a brutalized rape survivor he met on the street.

I’ve seen the original, years ago, and it’s very hard to watch. The rape scene is fairly explicit and goes on FOREVER. It’s probably about half of the entire running time, maybe even more. While the revenge scenes are rather entertaining, in their way (lead actress Camille Keaton’s icy expression as she listens to the screaming of her just-castrated assailant is memorable), there’s still a lot about that movie which bothers me, and leaves me feeling confused and annoyed about the idea of a remake.

Some folks argue that the presence of the extended rape scene is not necessarily misogynist, and that it’s filmed very much from the Jennifer’s perspective. She is the one the audience is supposedly emphasizing with. I guess I can see that being the intention – Keaton does not become attractively disheveled like some movie assault victims do, but gets covered in mud and blood and scratches, all while screaming in pain and terror. I can say I was certainly horrified by the scene, and Zarchi didn’t seem to have any interest in making the rape titillating at all. It’s very raw and unpleasant throughout.

But then, evidently some chumps still looked at it as a way to get their jollies. In Roger Ebert’s disgusted review of the film, he notes that an older chap next to him cheered the rapists on as they brutalized the protagonist. And that’s what gets me about defenses of the film that rest on the particulars of its depiction of the rape. I mean, I have nothing against filmic violence – duh. But if you are using that violence to make a point, it’s never a guarantee that your audience will get that point at all. They aren’t necessarily going to cheer for the “right” people, even if you think you’re spelling it out. Which isn’t to say that no one should ever make any movies or books or music because they will inevitably get misinterpreted, just don’t assume that everyone’s coming in with the same principles and assumptions that you are.

And for a film that’s supposedly meant to impress upon the audience the horror of rape, it doesn’t really do anything to challenge people’s assumptions about what rape survivors and perpetrators are like. Jennifer doesn’t drink around the dudes, doesn’t flirt with them, doesn’t even know them. The dudes may as well all be wearing t-shirts with the legend, “IGNORANT BACKWOODS ASSHOLE.” But how many times have I heard, “Well, she wouldn’t have been raped if she hadn’t been drinking,” or “He can’t be a rapist, he’s such a nice guy”? Someone could be horrified by Jennifer’s rape, but only be horrified because she’s a Nice Girl (TM) and therefore a victim deserving of sympathy. She’s no drunk or prostitute! Similarly, it’s easy to hate the rapists because they’re dumb as posts and low-class – you can distance yourself from them comfortably. My social circle and I would never behave like THOSE PEOPLE. Given that most rape survivors are attacked by people they know, this seems maybe not the best way to construct the plot.

So, I don’t know. From what I’ve heard of the remake, it’s just going to be another uninspired rehash. No film needs that, of course, but this one strikes me as especially unnecessary. Most of the movies that have been remade – Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street – were horror classics. Maybe with some wonky special effects (though I’ll take bad latex prostheses over mediocre CGI any day) or subpar acting, but generally still holding up pretty well. I Spit On Your Grave just isn’t very good – it’s entirely reliant on shock value. While many movies I like were considered shocking at the time of their release, they also have other qualities going for them. Suspiria, for instance, does have that famous murder-by-hanging-and-glass-ceiling, but it’s also got Argento’s very distinctive visual style. I know this is a question of taste, but can anyone really look at I Spit On Your Grave and argue convincingly that it’s a well-made movie? Doubtful.

In other news, I listened to this song on my headphones while sprinting through a hailstorm to join a friend at a fancy Asheville beer joint:

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~ by Smellen on May 18, 2010.

3 Responses to “the crusher”

  1. I trust you caught up with Cpn. Souza, ja? He’s supposed to be out here sometime soon…

    Triviium: Ebert seems to be fond of calling out misogyny in films, which is cool to see. I haven’t read enough to know the extent of this, but he’s a fan of horror movies and in turn calls out those which are passing off misogynistic violence as horror thrills (his review of Wolf Creek is probably the most explicit in this regard).

    • yeah, I saw Greg briefly in Asheville. Good to see him, of course, though I wish we could have hung out more.

      I think Ebert is good at calling out misogyny in violent movies but not so much in, say, romantic comedies. He has a tendency to be distracted by fetching young actresses showing plentiful cleavage, and tends to give inflated (HA!) ratings to their movies. Still, I love the “Ebert’s Most Hated” section of his website. “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it.”

  2. Woo Greg!

    Yea, I’ve noticed that too. It’s a lot easier for someone in Ebert’s position to call out violent movies than it is for him to call out more crowd-pleasing fare, but I am impressed by some of his articulations. (And yes, there are shades of the Most Loathsome in his Most Hated….)

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