The impulse to remake any even moderately successful horror movie of the ’70s and ’80s hits rock bottom with I Spit On Your Grave, which has the odd effect of cheapening one of the era’s rankest, most notorious pieces of exploitation trash. Shot with the plain, day-lit, marginally competent horror-realism of Last House On The Left, the 1980 original is a rape-revenge story stripped down to its raw essence: Woman travels alone to a backwoods cabin to do some writing; woman gets assaulted, physically and sexually, by five men (one mentally retarded), who leave her for dead; woman survives, then gets her revenge by luring them into traps and killing them off, one by one. (A hook from the trailer: “This woman will soon cut, chop, and burn five men beyond recognition, and there isn’t a jury in this country that would convict her.”) It’s not clever or multi-layered or stylized in an interesting way, and it doesn’t have a point, other than to appeal artlessly to the audience’s worst instincts.
Not surprisingly, the remake gussies up the grindhouse roughness of the first film, which makes it relatively more palatable—yet still vapid and repulsive—while also, in a perverse way, selling it out. The first half more or less follows the outline: Sarah Butler plays a big-city writer who heads to the boonies to work on her latest novel. She inadvertently insults a quartet of violent young rednecks, who respond by invading her cabin and terrorizing and assaulting her in horrific fashion. The revenge part of the rape-revenge equation is where writer Stuart Morse and director Steven R. Monroe try to get creative by turning I Spit On Your Grave into Saw VIII, losing much of the homemade crudeness that made the 1980 version so nauseatingly effective. In other words, I Spit On Your Grave is now a grisly entertainment, polished and full of rah-rah righteous kills, calibrated to satisfy its bloodthirsty audience. That it succeeds speaks poorly of success.