1978’s I Spit On Your Grave a.k.a. The Day of the Woman is perhaps the most well known (and some say quintessential) female revenge film ever made. The remake, due out this October, hopes to live up to all the shock and controversy of the original. If the recently released images are any indication, this will simply be a worn down, faded carbon copy. This is a film that belonged in 1978, but in 2010 it reads as an uninspired rehashing.
At the time of its original release, I Spit On Your Grave offered a brutal, jarring and yes (in an era of sploitation films) exploitative look at some of the day’s most pressing cultural issues: Sex and feminism. It is a movie that fetishishes rape and revenge; female disempowerment and female empowerment alike. The poster (a woman’s backside covered in dirt and bruises, arm dangling with weapon at the ready) hails it as a sexually violent sploitation film.
In order to understand why this movie had such an impact at the time it’s important to look at some of the particulars of the plotline. It is the story of a young city writer who goes to a cabin to work on her novel and is brutally raped and sodomized by four locals. Her subsequent unleashing of the holy hell of revenge is the stuff of movie legend. Brutalizing each of the culprits beyond recognition in the name of every woman who had ever felt suffocated, abused or powerless based on her sex. There was a visceral, cathartic response to this film that could only be felt at that time, when it was fresh, when feminism and female sexual empowerment was so prevalent.
For this was not just any woman, this was a city woman determined to have a thriving career in a field traditionally reserved for men. A woman who traveled on her own, independently, and did what she wanted. She represented the archetype of “the modern woman” at the time – heading into the 80’s “working girl” archetype. And these men did not randomly pick her out. These were backwoods beasts offended by her “back talking” who sought to humiliate and crush her by using her to “devirginize” their retarded friend. These men represented primal /animal male suppression of female empowerment. They even go so far as to destroy and mock her manuscript as they rape her, a clear attempt to destroy her eclipse of them in the social strata.
Each of these characters stood as archetypes for powerful social undercurrents of the day. A time when men and women were still negotiating volatile changing societal roles that some felt deeply threatened by. Where suppressed feminine rage longed for an avenue of expression, a heroine to “take back the night” as it were. It was also a time where a movie could still shock its audience with graphic images.
While gender roles remain an issue in today’s world this is a movie that is so of its time that a remake feels like nothing more than an attempt to titillate audiences with now commonplace sex and violence. Sex and violence that is available on any given weeknight on television. Just turn on your cable and go.
What filmmakers’ should be doing is asking themselves; what are today’s cultural boiling points? And creating films that express them, rather than continuing to create paint by numbers remakes of outdated originals.
For a more recent female vigilante gem, I suggest David Slade’s Hard Candy (2005) starring Ellen Page.
What do you think of the remake and images?
Source: Cinema Blend