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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Steven R. Monroe
Cast:
Sarah Butler Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Tracey Walter
Writing Credits:
Meir Zarchi (1978 screenplays), Stuart Morse

Tagline:
It's Date Night.

Synopsis:
The original version was reviled, condemned, and banned around the world for its on-screen depictions of depravity and violence. Now experience the acclaimed remake that dares to go even further: Jennifer Hills (a fearless performance by Sarah Butler) is a big-city novelist who rents an isolated country cabin to write her new book. But when she is brutally raped by a group of sadistic rednecks, Jennifer has plans for more than mere revenge. One-by-one she will find them. She will inflict horrific acts of agonizing torment upon them. And no jury in America would ever convict her. Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg and Tracey Walter co-star in this graphic, shocking and undeniably disturbing new take on one of the most controversial films of all time.

Box Office:
Budget
$1.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$32.064 thousand on 12 screens.
Domestic Gross
$92.401 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 2/8/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Steven R. Monroe and Producer Lisa Hansen
• “The Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Remaking a Cult Icon” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers and Radio Spot
• Previews
• Digital Copy


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


I Spit On Your Grave [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 99, 2011)

Over the years, 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave developed a reputation as one of the most shocking movies ever made. That would seem to make it an unlikely property to remake, but since the similarly controversial Last House on the Left also got a modern reworking, I guess folks thought Grave might benefit from an update.

Both films share similar stories. Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) rents a summer house in the remote country so she can hole up and write a novel. When she gets there, she meets some locals and inadvertently embarrasses alpha redneck Johnny Miller (Jeff Branson).

This sticks with him, so he and his pals decide to terrorize Jennifer. After some general abuse, she manages to flee and thinks she’s saved when she finds local Sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard). He takes her back to her house and hears her story, but it soon becomes clear that he’s not one of the good guys.

Johnny and the others reappear and they broaden their horizons into rape, ostensibly so mentally disabled Matthew (Chad Lingberg) can lose his virginity. He goes first, and then Johnny and the others assault Jennifer in a variety of ways.

Before they can kill Jennifer to remove evidence of their crime, she leaps into a river and disappears. Attempts to locate her prove futile, and she eventually comes back onto the scene to deal with the perpetrators.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that the most explicit aspects of the two films differ significantly. In the original Grave, sex/nudity were the dominant elements. That film’s Jennifer was nude most of the time, and the movie didn’t attempt to obscure this; it’d be difficult to find a non-porn flick with more full-frontal nudity, and the original also focused more heavily on the rape sequences.

Although the remake uses almost as much screen time to depict Jennifer’s torture and rape, those sequences feel less explicit. We see a lot less nudity, and while I can’t say the movie tries to sanitize the sexual violence, it doesn’t seem as brutal.

On the other hand, the remake clearly opts for a heavier gore content. While the original didn’t skimp on blood, it lacked the “torture porn” vibe we get here. I don’t want to ruin the “fun”, but the methods Jennifer uses to get her revenge go well beyond the simple murders of the first flick.

The change from the sex-heavy 1978 film to the gore-centered remake really alters the film’s tone. The original was almost eerily calm in the way it depicted its events. I won’t say the camera was a dispassionate observer, but with its lack of score and most heavy-handed cinematic techniques, it approached a documentary style. Although I don’t really buy the filmmakers’ protestations that the original was a “revenge fantasy” and not just an exploitation flick, the absence of movie hysterics did give that one an unusual feel.

On the other hand, the 2010 remake offers a much more conventional horror film, as it embraces almost every modern genre cliché. Whereas the original abandoned music, this one uses the standard creepy score with loud jolts to attempt to scare us. It follows the bogeyman template as well; it has characters and spooky bits crop up at the expected times for cheap thrills.

I think the graphic nature of Jennifer’s kills also robs the movie of its “feminist revenge fantasy” claim. Perhaps some will argue the opposite; they may believe that the more explicit nature of the violence puts Jennifer’s actions more firmly into the “fantasy” category.

And I can see that point, but I don’t believe that’s why they’re in the movie. Instead, I think the filmmakers opted for the horrible torture because that’s what attracts an audience these days. Horror fans won’t see a flick with the bloody but efficient kills of the original; no, they need to see a guy’s dick cut off and shoved into his own mouth.

I don’t say this to be condemnatory or moralistic, but I do think that too much graphic gore is counterproductive. In this case, I believe that Jennifer comes across as so sadistic that we almost start to feel bad for her “victims”. That was never a concern in the original; we felt none of the baddies’ pain there. But here, Jennifer uses such extravagant methods of torture that you want to tell her “enough already – just kill him and end it!”

The remake also changes Jennifer in that it makes her out to be nearly supernatural. In the original, she escapes her tormentors because Matthew fails to kill her; Johnny commands him to do so, but he’s unable to finish the deed, so she survives. She’s left alone in her cabin for two weeks before Johnny starts to suspect she’s not dead, and we see what she does during that period.

In the remake, we get little explanation for how Jennifer survives after she plunges into the river. Essentially the 2010 flick turns Jennifer into a supernatural creature. For a while, we suspect “she” may actually be a manifestation of Matthew’s tortured mind, but the movie makes it clear that this isn’t the case.

The absence of logic at work here causes problems. I don’t think the movie needs to spell out every second of her existence over that month, but I’d like some better explanation of where she was and how she survived. Instead, we’re left to wonder, and we wonder so much that we lose focus on her actions.

It’s a shame that the 2010 Grave suffers from so many problems, as it does improve on the original in some ways. Production values are superior, and the actors seem more satisfying. Actually, Butler feels too much like a whiny sorority girl for me to buy her as a professional writer, but she grows into the role’s demands once the terror starts. She might become a little too much of an action film badass by the end, but at least she displays appropriate levels of grit and resolve.

I also appreciate the fact that the remake doesn’t literally retell the original. It comes close in a lot of ways, but it does make some prominent alterations, the most significant of which involves the Sheriff Storch character. No such role exists in the first; Johnny, Matthew and the two other guys appear in the 1978 version, but there’s no police at all. I don’t know if this adds anything to the film, but it does create a minor new dynamic and helps differentiate the two.

But it’s not enough to save this tawdry, tired film. Again, I don’t want to leave the impression that I think the original Grave is a great – or even good – piece of work, but at least I understand its purpose better, and I think it maintains a clearer through-line and point of view. Whether one thinks it’s a classic or an abomination, at least it stands as something nearly unique. The remake fails to do anything new or different, however; it’s just another 21st century horror flick that embraces all the standard genre clichés.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

I Spit On Your Grave appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The transfer consistently seemed satisfying.

Sharpness was usually very good. A few wide shots looked a smidgen soft, but not to any serious degree. The vast majority of the film appeared well-defined and concise. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. In terms of print issues, no concerns materialized.

Like most modern horror movies, Grave went with a stylized palette. Much of the flick stayed with a pretty desaturated set of tones; a few brighter colors popped up in the early moments, but that was about it. Within those constraints, the hues were appropriate and well-rendered. Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows showed nice delineation and didn’t appear too dense. Overall, this was a positive presentation.

Similar thoughts greeted the fairly good Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Grave. The soundfield mostly delivered a mix heavy on atmosphere. Ominous noises cropped up in the side and rear speakers, and scare moments added to the track. Those elements created a nice sense of place and added impact to the material.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech sounded crisp and distinctive, and music appeared robust and full. Effects were accurate and dynamic. Low-end response showed good thump and richness. Nothing here dazzled, but the audio merited a “B”.

When we shift to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from director Steven R. Monroe and producer Lisa Hansen. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story issues and the adaptation of the original film, cast and performances, sets and locations, ratings problems, music and audio, editing, cinematography, and a few other production topics.

Hansen and Monroe provide a serviceable to good track, though it lacks insight. They offer a solid overview of various filmmaking topics but they don’t touch on the “why” involved. I’d like to know more about what prompted them to remake the movie, but we don’t get that. We do learn a reasonable amount about the production, though.

Next we find a featurette called The Revenge of Jennifer Hills: Remaking a Cult Icon. It runs 16 minutes, 25 seconds and includes notes from Monroe, 1978 version director Meir Zarchi, and actors Rodney Eastman, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Sarah Butler, Chad Lindberg and Andrew Howard. “Revenge” looks at thoughts about the original film, characters and performances, and general thoughts about the movie. For the most part, this is a pretty superficial piece, but it’s more interesting than standard promotional fodder. The actors add some good notes and we see useful shots from the set, so those help make it reasonably compelling.

11 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes, 43 seconds. These tend to flesh out the characters and notions to a moderate degree. None of them are bad in any way, but I don’t think any of them would’ve added anything especially meaningful to the movie.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for the 1978 I Spit on Your Grave, Frozen, The Killing Machine, The Disappearance of Alice Creed and Stonehenge Apocalypse. The set also provides three trailers for this version of Grave and a radio spot.

A separate disc provides a digital copy of Grave. With this, you can easily slap the flick onto a computer or portable viewing thingy. That’s your choice!

2010’s I Spit On Your Grave remakes a controversial cult movie in a less than satisfying way. It remains provocative but feels too much like a conventional horror flick. The Blu-ray provides very good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. Though not a terrible film, this one lacks much to make it memorable.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main