To say the title aloud provokes an immediate reaction to those that recognize it. For in 1978, an independent horror/grindhouse film like no other was unleashed upon audiences and became synonymous with the terms ‘controversial’ and ‘banned’. The original I Spit On Your Grave is certainly a significant movie to ponder over its’ themes, contents and impact on the cinematic landscape through the years (i.e. The Last House On The Left). The envelope-pushing tale of a woman who is brutally attacked, terrorized, raped and ultimately left for dead by a group of savage men, only to rise from the ashes of near-death and exact a wave of bloody vengeance upon her attackers individually after was bound to raise some opinions. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film zero stars when it was released (he would do the same for the 2010 remake), citing the uncomfortable endurance of watching a level of abuse and violence inflicted upon a woman that should not have been captured on film, lending the notion that the movie has zero taste, class and no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
But there are those who gave the film a different view, noting that due to the nature of the woman’s ordeal, once the offenders received their own justice I Spit On Your Grave morphed into a unique cathartic horror experience in which the female attained true justice for her victimization by turning the tables and dishing out exactly what many audience viewers believe her attackers had coming to them; an eye for an eye and then some. The original film provoked no shortage of controversy for its depiction of violence, sexual abuse, and murder, resulting in it being banned from many theaters for walking the line of ‘snuff piece’ but it maintained a relevance on video as intrigued eyes searched for a way to see the movie that was so ‘wrong’ to watch. It became an outlaw cult hit that still is debated over today.
With that said, the one-and-done film inspired a 2010 remake from Cinetel Films and Anchor Bay Entertainment that was no less graphic and jarring than its predecessor, followed by two equally bloody, deplorable button-pushing sequels. Anchor Bay Canada collects all three of these films for a I Spit On Your Grave Triple Feature DVD set released on video March 8, 2016. The remake film stars Sarah Butler as Jennifer Hills, a young woman who travels to a cabin retreat to write a novel and gets more than she bargained for when a group of men (led by the local sheriff) use the opportunity to degrade, defile and unspeakably fulfill the worst of humanity upon her body and soul before they attempt to kill her. With Jennifer seemingly dead after a fall from a bridge, the men return to their normal lives and then start being victimized in gruesome, horrific ways in payback form (think Saw-style) when Jennifer returns and traps them one-by-one.
Although it has the number to suggest a sequel, I Spit On Your Grave 2 is actually another form of a remake of the original film. A young New York girl (Jemma Dallender) is invited to a photo shoot by a group of European men and after the session (in which Jemma refuses to bare certain skin for the lens), she wakes in her invaded apartment to find one of the men sitting in her bedroom. After an initial attack and rape while her neighbor is also killed for trying to help, Jemma is smuggled unknowingly by the whole group of men to Bulgaria where they continue their abuse upon her while she’s chained in a dirty basement. The men decide to bury her alive in the floor of the house, not realizing that the concrete beneath the dirt gives way and gives Jemma new purpose in the bowels of the city which she uses to ensnare and torture her captors one-by-one for revenge.
I Spit On Your Grave III: Vengeance Is Mine is an actual sequel this time, following the events of the 2010 remake in which Jennifer (Sarah Butler) is still tormented by her ordeal, going so far as to change her identity, seek counselling for violent visions/feelings, as well as joining a support group. When her friend is raped and murdered by her ex-boyfriend (who inevitably gets away with it), it unleashes the killer still residing within Jennifer; setting her on a course to target men who have done women wrong in the same manner as her by hitting the streets vigilante-style and viciously dispatching the scum of her choosing. Her activities ultimately become noticed by the law and puts Jennifer finally on a detective’s radar for her brutal retaliation murders.
If you plan on watching any of these films, they certainly require a level of maturity and also intelligent preparation. The first two films certainly require a viewer to witness a very uncomfortable amount of graphic material, beginning with the abuse and leading to the revenge murders (a little less so on the third, which is more of a straight-up slasher film). Some of these sequences can run a very long length, which is meant to make a feel a viewer practically nauseous and in some cases offended by what they have to endure with their eyes. But it is true that when the female victim turn the tables, the bloody revenge murders do engage a level of catharsis for an audience however deplorable it might be. Even a male viewer will find themselves squirming over the material, especially when the lead characters target the private areas of their attackers (Vengeance Is Mine itself contains one extremely lewd and overly gross horror shot).
But to give credit where credit is due, both Sarah Butler and Jemma Dallender deserve a huge amount of respect for the performances they give considering the material. Each actress has to play two distinct state-of-minds (pre-attack and post-attack), while also baring a lot of themselves physically and mentally on the screen. Many people often ponder how hard it was for a young Linda Blair to play a possessed young girl in The Exorcist, but one could argue that what either of these actresses went through for the first two films of I Spit On Your Grave was beyond difficult. One certainly cannot say that these films are high-valued material to watch, but director Stephen R. Monroe (who directed the first two) delivers on producing not one but two remakes of the original film. The third film is more slasher than snuff film, but it actually carries some weight in addressing the themes and concepts of sexual abuse and what it costs the victims.
All three films are presented in an Anamorphic widescreen presentation (with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio) and contain good picture quality for standard definition DVD set. While each film contains some high levels of darkness and black to get through, they are decent visual transfers. All the discs contain effective Dolby Digital 5.1 sound modes as well. The 2010 remake disc contains the most special features including a worthwhile audio commentary with Monroe and a featurette with cast interviews. The two pieces approach the subject of how the actors prepared for the scenes and the material, plus what went into constructing the remake with the same level of power as the original. There are also some trailers and deleted scenes (the second film has only some deleted scenes attached as well). The third disc is bare bones with no features at all.
I Spit On Your Grave is a concept meant to incite fury and anger. It’s supposed to make an audience feel horrifically uncomfortable. This three-disc set certainly accomplishes this feat by collecting all the torment in one place and to initiate a three-film marathon would certainly be an ultimate test of mental endurance. The first two films are strong remakes of the original and while the material may certainly be of a bottom-feeding nature for humanity, there is no denying that the result was executed exactly as intended. The third film acts as an interesting side-story continuation for Jennifer’s character but it is an inferior sequel (but horror fans may still find value in several scenes). Only those who know and appreciate the original film should continue on with these modern continuations, all uninitiated others should tread with extreme caution or perhaps avoid altogether.