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.