- Leading the trend of ’70s/’80s horror remakes to rock bottom by honoring one of the era’s most abhorrent pieces of exploitation trash
- Keeping the nauseating rape-revenge plot mostly intact while glossing up the original’s roughhewn “amateur” look, which has the odd effect of cheapening a vision that was already tawdry to the extreme
- Commercializing the “revenge” part of the story by staging the deaths partly via ironic Saw-like contraptions
Defenders: Producer Lisa Hansen and director Steven R. Monroe
Tone of commentary: Informative and agreeable, almost to a fault. Monroe and Hansen get into the usual funny behind-the-scenes stories and production hassles, spread praise across the cast and crew, and address some of the misgivings fans of the original I Spit On Your Grave have about the remake. What they don’t address is their rationale for making the film in the first place, or any of the moral controversies that dogged the 1978 version and will surely carry over into this mostly faithful (in spirit, anyway) remake. On occasion, Hansen expresses misgivings about her involvement in the project, like her response to a scene where protagonist Sarah Butler is forced to fellate the business end of a pistol. (“To be shooting this film, you become a little desensitized, and then every once in a while, you have moments when you’re like ‘Holy cow, what am I doing?’”) But while Monroe talks about the emotional and physical toll of shooting the film’s drawn-out rape scenes, he doesn’t feel inclined to defend their content. He’s mostly just concerned with appeasing fans of the original, whether that means answering message-board nitpicks or pointing out shots that pay direct homage to it.
What went wrong: They were originally obligated to deliver an R-rated film, but after several rounds of cuts—probably more than 100, they estimate—they realized the film wouldn’t be good with an R, and their distributor, Anchor Bay, eventually agreed. (File under: “What almost went wrong.”) As for the production itself, it was originally set up in Iowa, but when that state pulled its tax credit at the last minute, the filmmakers had to set up shop in Shreveport, Louisiana, and actors playing the bad guys suddenly had to transform themselves into shit-kicking rednecks.
Once there, they experienced a few minor problems: A busted generator in one location forced them to stage a scene elsewhere, which wouldn’t have been an issue except that it involved making the audience believe that the waifish Butler would drag the body of a man twice her size to a different place. (That same pesky generator also appears on camera in one shot, but it wasn’t discovered until after the first test screening.) The dead birds Butler’s assailants leave at her doorstep—a motif she adopts for revenge later—were FedExed by a taxidermist, but were totally inadequate. The birds not only looked ridiculous, but the propmaster insisted that they couldn’t be touched, either. Also, a stuntwoman hired to jump off a bridge naked injured herself in warm-ups, requiring another stuntwoman to be hired at the last minute, under the same conditions. Turns out this willingness to put the performers in harm’s way is a running theme…
Comments on the cast: … because the actors were all put through hell at one point or another. Monroe and Hansen compliment cast members for being troupers in a difficult shoot, but the sheer number of incidents where they were treated like Guantanamo prisoners begins to pile up. Monroe recalls having to do two takes of a rape scene where Butler’s face is shoved in a puddle, and the first take affected her so severely that she had to be held for a few minutes while she cried it out. (“Sorry about that,” she said. “We need to go again, right?”) When Butler’s character turns the tables on her attackers by torturing and killing them, the torture part was real: One of them really did have his head duct-taped to a tree all day while his eyes were pulled back Clockwork Orange-style, another was positioned awkwardly over a bathtub for so long that the stress took a toll on his stomach and face (“A lot of people have asked about the snot,” says Monroe. “It’s real snot!”), and still another was held naked in a stress position with a bridle bit between his teeth—and this is before he’s force-fed a particularly disgusting prop. (“Poor Jeff [Branson]. He really choked and threw up.”) All in all, the shooting of I Spit On Your Grave sounds like a shooting of the cabinet scene in Mark Borchardt’s Coven.
Inevitable dash of pretension: Monroe invites us to take notice of the charge on the gas pump near the beginning of the movie: $19.78, the year I Spit On Your Grave was made.
Commentary in a nutshell: Hansen: “When you cut, you feel like you were in the middle of something really horrific.”