Why did I see this? One fact I wasn't aware of is that director Stephen Monroe formerly helmed It Waits, which I had mistakenly checked out on blu-ray thinking it was Larry Cohen's It's Alive. I made it through maybe 20 minutes, and now have blown 11 bucks on Monroe's remake of Meir Zarchi's Day of the Woman aka I Spit on Your Grave. Must check IMDb more often. Anyway, if you haven't heard, the plot is rape, then revenge (for a more thorough summary, see a professional critic -- Roger Ebert still hates the original and, now, equally hates the remake). The details remain pretty much the same, but scenarist Jeffrey Reddick adds the missing fifth male, who was promoted on the American poster for Zarchi's original. And although the redneck rapists are no less cretinous than before, they know their way around modern technology: they can use a Macbook, understand that a cellphone doesn't work when it's been dropped in the toilet, and, keeping with the most modern of horror clichés, one of them carries a videocamera. (Sidenote: In order to critique the viewer's implicit scopophilia, the film has to implicate him or her in the voyeur's place through identification, as in Lost Highway, Peeping Tom or Vertigo. Here, you identify with the female victim, so when she fishhooks the hillbilly auteur's eyelids, saying, "you like to watch, hunh?," there's no critique of the gaze, masculine or otherwise. Instead, the viewer will likely feel satisfaction at the spectacle of revenge.) The sheriff (the added fifth rapist) is smart enough to know that the digital recording is evidence, so he attempts to destroy it. On the other hand, he wasn't smart enough to stop the recording while the rape was going on. Not that it matters, since the victim, Jennifer Hills, isn't interested in proving her case to others.
Of all the horror remakes these days, Monroe's film is the most slavish attempt to replicate the effects of its source material. But as Gus Van Sant's Psycho demonstrated, an inbred mise en scÃ¨ne produces genetic defects. Reddick's dialogue and characterization are no worse than Zarchi's, but no better, either. (Wake up! Midwesteners are scary, too!) Where the rot is most noticeable is in the look of Monroe's version and an updated approach to the revenge. I unfortunately only have the above pic, but you can get a feel for the way cinematographer Nouri Haviv captured the forest in the original rape scene, as a prison around Jennifer. The wider and longer the shot, the more trapped the viewer feels her to be. In the remake, a similar woodland setting is used, but everything is too close up and rapidly edited for the environs to feel particularly oppressive. Nevertheless, where things go really wrong is with the revenge. In Zarchi's film, Jennifer's sexuality is perverted by the violence, reducing her to an avenging vagina dentata. Sex becomes an instrument of violence, the trap she uses to exact her revenge. Rape isn't just a matter of violence, but deforms the concept of sex, as well. In the remake, the victimized Jennifer becomes a superhuman mixture of Rambo and Jigsaw, knocking her rapists out and then placing them in Rube Goldbergian torture devices jerry-built with items she found lying about. As with Saw, each torture is uniquely suited to the style of the rapist. Thus, the viewer is to take pleasure in the inventiveness rather than feel the horror of the revenge. This problem was the reason for Irreversible's revenge-rape structure. Clearly, some exploitation films deserve more thought than they often get from many critics. Monroe proves that, at least.