Friday, August 6, 2010

Literally nothing they won't remake

I enjoy days when I don't have a specific post planned for that morning, because it gives me the flexibility to be shocked enough into writing an impromptu post later in the day.

Today is one of those days, as I just discovered that I Spit On Your Grave has been remade, and will be released worldwide this fall.

Criticizing remakes has been all the rage on the film blogosphere, to such an extent that you are now more likely to see posts that defend remakes. This is both a form of backlash, and a form of anti-snobbery that I think we can all appreciate. I find myself in the latter category, as I feel good every time I re-assert my appreciation for "low culture" and its potential to be extremely pleasing in its own right.

But it doesn't mean I can't register shock every once in awhile about exactly how far things have come.

I Spit On Your Grave? Really?

I've had occasion to discuss the 1978 original a couple times on my blog already. (Check out my label for it if you're interested.) So you already know I find the film interesting -- and that I feel a significant amount of guilt in saying this, because I know many people find it loathsome.

So today's outrage is not because I think the evil of that graphic, bloody exploitation movie is being re-released on the world. In fact, my outlook on it probably shouldn't even be characterized as outrage, but rather, disbelief. There's no morality attached to my perspective at all -- there's simply a surprise about the business decision that allowed this film to be greenlit.

Granted, it's not starring anyone I've ever heard of. (Though looking at this production still, I thought, for a fleeting moment, that Nicole Kidman was the star -- tell me you don't think that looks like Kidman.) Granted, Anchor Bay Entertainment is not exactly a major distributor. (Though I'd certainly heard of them.) And granted, it premiered at horror festivals earlier this year, meaning that it was looked upon somewhat marginally.

But the fact that it exists at all shows you just how far name recognition will get you.

I mean, just look what Roger Ebert wrote about the original: "The story of 'I Spit on Your Grave' is told with moronic simplicity. These horrible events are shown with an absolute minimum of dialogue, which is so poorly recorded that it often cannot be heard. There is no attempt to develop the personalities of the characters - they are, simply, a girl and four men, one of them mentally retarded. The movie is nothing more or less than a series of attacks on the girl and then her attacks on the men, interrupted only by an unbelievably grotesque and inappropriate scene in which she enters a church and asks forgiveness for the murders she plans to commit." He called the movie "a vile bag of garbage ... without a shred of artistic distinction. Attending it was one of the most depressing experiences of my life."

As indicated above, I don't necessarily agree with the strident nature of Ebert's comments. But let's just say I never thought I would have to be discussing a remake of it. The movie seems to be particularly a product of its place and time, which is not to say that the late 1970s were a time when hillbillies regularly gang-raped innocent women. Just that it was made at a time when exploitation movies had the potential to exist as fodder for intellectual discussion. Exploitation movies made today would not seem to have the same possible sociopolitical relevance ... though I guess I can't really say that for certain until we're 30 years removed from today.

I just watched the trailer, and it looks pretty legit -- high production values (which the first film did not have) that look completely in line with the post-Saw, post-Hostel standard. It's not such a surprise that it's being marketed as a straightforward horror/torture porn -- I guess that's probably more or less how the original was marketed, but I was only five at the time it came out, so even if I'd managed to see the trailer somehow, I wouldn't have had much to compare it to. It also has a legit writer, Jeffrey Reddick, who created the Final Destination series. With Meir Zarchi, who directed the original, serving as a producer, it's possible it could be a competent film that still has the outrageous quality that Zarchi brought to the original.

Far more likely is that it will blend in with a dozen other anonymous torture porns that appear to promote violence against women. In fact, come to think of it, the worst fate for the I Spit On Your Grave remake is not for it to be too shocking -- it's for it to be too boring.

I guess we'll find out on October 8th.


Mike Lippert said...

I think your ultimate conclusion is the right one. You know, the value of the original, despite my agreeing with Ebert, is that it pushed buttons, stirred emotions, and what not. It may have stirred the wrong emotions but it's true vileness guarenteed it a sort of timelessness. The remake I think will just be glossy and empty and by the numbers, nothing to get excited about and will thus probably be a forgetten memory before it even gets to DVD.

Vancetastic said...

Yep. Good conclusion Mike.

As I wrote this piece, I was examining again why I *did* find value in the original ... and I think it's more because I am viewing it through a lens of knowing that it's a famously controversial film, and therefore, must-see viewing. Although Ebert says it's entirely without technique, I was actually drawn to some of Zarchi's choices. For example, I remember a scene where the heroine is swinging in a hammock, and the camera cuts back and forth between the swinging hammock and a boat approaching on the water, increasing the tension. There was enough stuff like that, which I find kind of emblematic of 1970s filmmaking, to make me think it was a product with actual technical value. If it was just a 100% hack job, little touches like this would not be present.

Mike Lippert said...

You're right although, I think once you've begun to have a reaction to something as violent as Ebert's technique ceases to matter and none of us are safe from hyperbole.