My experience watching this remake of "I Spit on Your Grave" at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival is one I'm not likely to forget. I don't know the exact number of audience members I was with, but there must've been over 500 of them. Two reportedly passed out, a few walked out, and there were lots of cheering and sounds of disgust during the gruesome revenge scenes the lead character Jennifer unleashes upon five male hillbillies, who cruelly toy with her and rape her. I have only seen a few films at film festivals, although none were like this; not even last year's "Antichrist".
I've already described the basic plot of "I Spit on Your Grave", but I'll elaborate more. Jennifer is a writer who travels to a cabin in the woods for relaxation and to work on her next book. She encounters three of the men at a gas station on the way and they immediately show signs of not taking kindly to her. A mentally handicapped friend of theirs named Matthew comes to her cabin later to fix her toilet, which she also conveniently drops her cell phone into. The three other men decide to teach this city girl some kind of lesson and have Matthew lose his virginity to her, but he's sympathetic. It all seems familiar to the original 1978 film, which I didn't care for. There are differences, however. One is ironic as there's a fifth man involved, who's a corrupt sheriff. In the original, there are four, but the poster tagline mistakenly says, "This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned *five* men beyond recognition". The irony with the remake is probably intentional. It may seem like Jennifer's damaged cell phone doesn't even matter, but it's hard to believe the rest of the law enforcement in the town might also be corrupt. Well, I can give a bit of leeway regarding the cell phone because there probably wouldn't have been a film, otherwise.
I wouldn't dare spoil the revenge scenes, but they're more brutal than the original. I don't even want to describe them because of how sadistic they are. Watching them, I felt depressed and repulsed, yet amazed since they feel realistic. As you may have guessed, I didn't cheer with the audience. Despite what these men did to Jennifer, I felt kind of sorry for them. It's like she's treating them way worse. I was lucky enough to briefly speak with director Steven R. Monroe afterward about my different reaction and he told me you're suppose to feel that way. I was kind of relieved, to be honest. I don't remember if he told me not to tell people that, but if he did, I'm sorry. His film is indeed horrific and I don't see what's so wrong about revealing his intention.
This remake is about as simple as the original, but the remake's made better, including the acting. I felt more emotion throughout the entire film. When the men at the gas station break into Jennifer's cabin and toy with her, there's genuine tension. That goes for other scenes that have mystery to them. Jennifer's fear and despair is definitely visible when she's abused and trying to escape. Yes, the characters are pretty one dimensional, but I don't always need great development to take interest. Ambiguity is nice to have. There's actually an interesting twist to the sheriff I won't reveal.
There's unfortunately predictability to this film, like a few minutes of when Jennifer first encounters the sheriff and what she says to the men when she turns the tables. I had some trouble believing that the shed by her cabin happens to be filled with... well, let's just say unsubtle items. The flaws certainly didn't stop me from being shocked and I even was a little queasy after I came home. That really doesn't happen even after watching such graphic and disturbing films as "Cannibal Holocaust", "Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom", "Ichi the Killer", and "Philosophy of a Knife". *There's* a marathon for you. (Just kidding.)
Did I truly like this film? Yes, I did, but it'll probably be several years for me to consider seeing it again, which would mainly be to see how much its shock wears off. If my review has made or helped you to be curious, hopefully you have a good idea of what you're getting into. Before I met the director, I somewhat unexpectedly got a poster of Jennifer holding a hedge clipper shown in the theatre. The director even signed it with my name. It was nice of him, but I won't be putting the poster up in my room. No siree.