Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave

I think it's funny that the movie I decide to watch the day after The King's Speech is I Spit on Your Grave, the remake though, not the original. Also, isn't it funny that The King's Speech has a million Oscar nominations? I do. Surprising as well is True Grit's multiple inclusion. I Spit on Your Grave is a movie that will not win any Oscars or Golden Globe or what have you. In fact, many critics were positively infuriated by this horror flick.

It's not hard to see why. I Spit on Your Grave has a simple premise: young attractive woman rents a secluded cabin in the woods. Some locals, including the sheriff, gang-rape her, and attempt to murder her. They do not succeed, and she returns to exact horrible bloody revenge.

Let me say right at the outset that I didn't hate this movie, and I'm having difficulty with it. Let's start with the good things about this movie, the reasons why one could watch this. It's gorgeously filmed. And I mean gorgeous. Every single shot is perfectly framed and perfectly lit. Every time I watch one of these horror remakes I keep thinking that they can't get any more beautifully shot, and here this movie changes that. The lighting is mostly natural, almost Terence Malick-esque. There are some moments of almost transcendent beauty in this movie.

However that is juxtaposed against the absolute debasing method of horror. This is a movie that will make you feel ill. Physically and mentally ill. But before I get to that, a couple more positive thoughts.

There are a couple good "gotcha" scares that are extremely effective. They aren't as obvious as the scares you'll find in other horror movies. In fact, the two fantastic jump scares are somehow creepier and imply far more than the surface would have you. It's a very rare case of showing and not telling in horror. I won't explain what the two scares are, but they are sublime.

That's about all I can say in terms of positives about I Spit on Your Grave. Other than these fleeting moments, the movie is an exercise in how much the viewer can handle.

The gang-rape scene is excruciating. Absolutely excruciating. I was reminded a few time of the remake of The Last House on the Left, which also features a terrifying and horrendous rape scene. In that particular movie, the rape lasts about 3 to 4 minutes. And it's fucking disturbing. I Spit on Your Grave completely disregards decency or humanity. The rape scene last for over 15 minutes. Over 15 minutes! That's almost unbearable. I had to turn the sound down on my TV because I couldn't handle it.

So let's revisit my angry diatribe from the last post. I was angry because people are excited over a movie about nothing, about the struggles and the pain of a dead monarch, a figurehead with no political power. I watched afterwards a movie about a young woman being raped and then fighting back. Is this anymore real or important?

Yes, part of it is. I've been thinking a lot about the purpose of art. Yes, the purpose. Art has a purpose and I'll be damned if any Dadaist is going to say otherwise. I'm going to outline my thoughts in another post, I think, but suffice to say that I believe important art should be important because it's about the real world. It should promotes awareness about society's problems, it should instigate discussion and critique about the issue it raises. I'm going to get into here, but I think that the first half of I Spit on Your Grave is important.

Bear with me, don't look away. I'm going somewhere with this. Before you get upset, think about this. Here's a statistic for you: there were 194,270 white and 17,920 black victims of rape or sexual assault reported in 2006 in the US. Here's another: one of every 200 women in the UK was raped in 2006, which works out to be 85,000 women.

Can you imagine this? No? Fuck that. You should. You should understand the pain and the horror and the fucking sickness that happens in our society. Not just male on female sexual crimes, but any other combination. Sexual assault and rape are fucking sick displays of mental illness and power and corruption.

Art has a duty, yes a fucking duty, to show the world that this happens. People should understand that this happens, and that it is not right. It should never happen. But it does, and we should do something about it.

Organizations such as Take Back the Night are trying. They're trying to keep the darkness away. If you care, you should donate, by clicking here.

The second half of I Spit on Your Grave follows the men as they are brutally tortured and abused and dismembered and killed by the rape victim. Is this rape-victim-empowerment? Or is it exploitation?

I guess the question is, does this movie have a moral center? Does the movie ask of the viewer to choose? I'm tempted to say that I Spit on Your Grave asks the viewer to choose retributive justice, typically popular in the United States. It's a paradigm with many defenders and many detractors, but this type of justice, in the lawful sense, is always meted out by someone appointed, someone responsible for that decision. Of course, this argument just falls apart when the qualifications and criteria for judicial positions comes into question.

Ultimately, I have to say that the movie doesn't have a moral center. While superficially it may seem like we should side with vengeance, the movie fails because it asks us to be entertained by such a notion. This isn't a failure of its identity as a movie. Far from it. As a movie it succeeds on technical details, realistic depiction of rape and assault (save for the last scene) and its grueling misanthropy at the center. That's why it fails as important art, or even art. It's as misanthropic and low as movies come. Hatred of humanity can never have positive results. Showing how evil humans can be is certainly a purpose of art. But reveling in it, loving it, loving hatred and anger and inhumanity is not.

I Spit on Your Grave is a grueling two hours of rape and torture. It's not a nice movie. It's not even a good movie. But it's certainly a movie that's often pretty to look at, is made with technical skill, and features some excellent acting. But it angers me because it's obsessed with inciting hate. I don't want that anymore.

1 comment:

MissLilyMae said...

My boyfriend just showed me this movie this evening. I couldn't handle it by midway through the second part of the rape scene. I broke down into hysterical tears, insisting that we stop watching it because it was horrible and disgusting, and then getting incredibly angry at my bf for not doing something about it when I, in my hysterics, couldn't figure out how to stop it from playing on his laptop. I can usually handle quite gory and explicit horror movies, but I had never seen one with a rape scene shown so vividly and painfully. I had no idea that I would react the way I did, and my boyfriend was so taken aback by my reaction that he wondered later in the night (after i had calmed down and we had been busy doing other things), if I had been raped in the past. I have not, and I explained to him that I didn't even expect my reaction to be how it was.

I have in recent years developed the belief that rape is a worse crime than murder. I am not 100% sure why I feel so strongly about this, but have tried a few times recently to explain it and have gotten more of a concrete idea. Explaining this would take a whole 'nother comment, so I'll refrain for now.

We are going to watch the rest of the movie tomorrow, though I am going to make sure he skips to the end of the rape scene. I want to see her exact her revenge on the animals who could so carelessly take everything from her. That's how that kind of event feels to me.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I don't think this movie (at least what I've seen) serves no purpose, as you say. I agree with what you said about how it shows the ugly, disgusting truth that so many women face; one they really REALLY shouldn't have to. I think, though it is indeed brutal and too much to stomach (at least for me), it acts as a brutal wake-up call to the fact that THIS SHIT REALLY HAPPENS. And what it does to a woman (or man I suppose) is not a small thing. My own sister is having issues in her marriage right now because she can't recognize how much being raped as a young teenager scarred her badly and affects her relationship with her husband. (She is old enough to be my mother, so we aren't very close)

Anyway! Who knows if you or anyone else will read this, but I just really needed to get at least some of my thoughts down somewhere in a conversation about this movie. If someone replies wanting to discuss it, I would love to.