Payback is a furious, brutal bitch. And it comes in the form of what's cheerfully dubbed "torture porn" in this remake of a violent exploitation flick that many consider a cult icon. The gruesome nature of the plot's dark subject matter has always been at the center of the original movie's controversy and arguable legacy. It pushed the envelope of acceptability more by accident than by intention. This modernized version, from relatively unknown filmmaker Steven R. Monroe seems intent on doing just the opposite, with ten-times the cruelty and carnage, but none of the talent or understanding of what gives the original an immense following. The director, joined by Meir Zarchi as executive producer, is more focused on shocking audiences than in saying anything at all about violence against women.
While overall production value and acting is a significant improvement over its predecessor, the first, and most obvious, mistake made by the filmmakers is an attempt at delivering a horror movie instead of the vigilante/revenge thriller the story is known for. Upon arriving at a service station, Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) is immediately made to feel uncomfortable about spending a month by herself at a very secluded cottage. The three gas attendants — who by the way, play their roles with such stereotypical delight that we can expect them in next year's Inbred Redneck Cousins calendar — threateningly eyeball her like she's a 24-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The sequence instantly signals warning flares that she should find someplace else to write her novel. But, no that would force Monroe to make a good movie rather than this vile concoction.
Granted, the entire scene functions to establish a suspenseful and chilling tone early on, but the lack of skill throughout also hits viewers over the head with the fact that something terrible is about to happen. Working from a script by first-time writer Stuart Morse, Monroe, it appears, is none too familiar with subtle filmmaking. Not only do we have the gas station scene foretelling future events, but Jennifer also has to contend with the usual tricks of the genre. Namely, random creepy noises at night. And just for the heck of it, why don't we also throw in a scene where our would-be heroine discovers a shed full of wonderful toys appropriate for exacting vengeance. You know, if the occasion should ever arise. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
If the gratuitous display of foreshadow and mind-numbing coincidences weren't enough, things only get better with a big dose of gratuitous, mind-numbing violence this side of the 'Saw' series. Before we're forced to see the inevitable rape scene, Jennifer endures a disgusting barrage of cat calls, harassment, and intimidation by the same three men from the beginning (Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, and Rodney Eastman). They're also joined by a local young man with certain unspecified challenges (Chad Lindberg). Later, they're joined by a fifth (Andrew Howard) for no apparent reason. Honestly! There is no reason whatsoever to explain why this new character is introduced or why he even participates in any of the gruesomeness. He's not related to any of the four men, and he doesn't act remotely friendly with them either.
What's worse, the sequence loiters for a very, very, very long time on screen, which feels far too real and uncomfortable to watch. And it works against the whole movie's supposed objective — Jennifer's revenge. The second half, in fact, feels cheapened by a sudden lack of realism. Her contraptions for delivering justice are so perfectly arranged and intricate that we can't help but laugh at their ingenuity and careful preparation. The entire movie fails because the heinous crimes committed bring an authentic air of psychological and physical abuse, but the best our heroine can do in response is conjure a caricature of every slasher movie ever devised. In essence, the men are a real terror, but her retaliation is nothing more than pre-planned movie magic. This is more apparent than the female-empowerment angle the movie so desperately wishes to accomplish.
What this boils down to is that 'I Spit on Your Grave (2010)' should never have been made. It's a terrible remake that spits — phlegm and all — on the original cult favorite.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment releases 'I Spit on Your Grave (2010)' to Blu-ray as a two-disc unrated set. The Region A locked, BD50 disc and Digital Copy of the movie come housed in a blue eco-case. The cover art is reminiscent of the first film's poster design. At startup, viewers are greeted by a series of skippable previews, including one for the 1978 original, before finding a standard menu selection with full-motion clips playing in the background.
'I Spit on Your Grave (2010)' hits Blu-ray with a good but not very exciting 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1).
Being a new release, the freshly-minted transfer is terrifically detailed, with great clarity and resolution. The fine lines of various objects throughout are resolute and clean while background info is plainly visible in daylight scenes. But in spite of this one major positive, the quality of the picture is far from a knockout or pleasantly eye-catching.
Much of this is clearly related to an intentional look and feel meant to add a somber atmosphere to an already dark subject matter. The photography displays a bleak and dreary overcast look thanks in large part to a heavily restrained contrast level. This affects blacks, which often appear dull and flat in several sequences, and murky shadows tend to ruin some the finer details in the interiors. Dynamic range, overall, is unsatisfying with highlights constantly clipping and instances of crush, which are minor but apparent nonetheless, especially when the gang first enters the cottage. While primaries are rendered accurately to give the gloomy picture a small shimmer of life, the color palette is dim and muted, keeping in line with the deliberate look. Facial complexions can be revealing, exposing minor blemishes in the skin, but generally, flesh tones appear drained and sometimes sickly. All things considered, the image is still good and highly detailed. It's just not much of a looker in the end.
The remake to a cult icon also arrives with a strong and generally pleasing Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. It's mostly a front-heavy presentation, displaying good channel separation and well-prioritized vocals. Fidelity detail helps establish a wide and expansive imaging, keeping viewers engaged with the cringe-inducing violence. The soundstage exhibits a nicely balanced and crisp mid-range, accompanied by a healthy low end that adds weight to certain scenes. Although the design never really immerses its listeners, it has its moments with attractive atmospheric cues that build tension and create a sense of space. The musical score takes even better advantage of rear speakers and expands the soundfield appreciably. In the end, the lossless mix serves its intended purposes adequately and sounds quite good on Blu-ray.
For this Blu-ray edition of 'I Spit on Your Grave (2010),' Anchor Bay Entertainment releases a rather trifling set of bonus features, not that we really need to spend too much time on the gruesome details.
'I Spit on Your Grave (2010)' ranks as another unnecessary remake of a movie many consider a cult classic of the exploitation genre. Although director Steven R. Monroe delivers some interesting grindhouse elements in the visuals, his film ultimately fails because the heroine's vengeance is made into a parody of "torture porn," whereas the criminals are allowed a sense of realism. The Blu-ray edition of the movie comes with a good but not striking video transfer and a satisfying audio presentation. Supplemental material is greatly lacking, but overall, the package is decent and fans will be more generally pleased than others with the purchase. If you're not a fan, you can skip this one.