Friday, 20 August 2010
I Spit On Your Grave - Toronto After Dark Film Festival (2010)
I Spit On Your Grave (2010) Dir. Steven R. Monroe
Starring: Sarah Butler, Daniel Franzese, Jeff Branson, Rodney Eastman, Tracey Walter, Andrew Howard and Chad Lindberg
By Greg Klymkiw
During the question and answer session following the Toronto After Dark Film Festival screening of his remake of Meir Zarchi's inept 1978 scumbag movie of the same name, director Steven R. Monroe responded to queries from the moderator and audience with a degree of humility and sensitivity that one wouldn't expect from a filmmaker who had just served up an extremely well-crafted 107 minutes of gang rape followed by torture-porn styled revenge.
Given the controversial nature of the picture he was asked if there were any crew members who walked off the film due to the extreme subject matter. He then referred to some "idiot" on the local Shreveport, Louisiana crew with a "drinking problem" who up and disappeared, but that nobody else abandoned the proceedings and certainly not due to the graphic recreation of various indignities perpetrated against virtually every character in the movie.
Monroe, for some reason, was bemused to relate this story about the "idiot" and perhaps it was because he thought it was funny or infused with irony. All it was infused with, frankly, was considerable insensitivity towards a fellow human being who might well be an alcoholic and as such, is/was suffering from a horrible, debilitating disease that should inspire empathy at the very least and certainly not derision.
I honestly couldn't figure out why Monroe chose to relate this anecdote with a goofy grin accompanied by a bit of nervous laughter, but it came close to tempering my response to the movie - which was already not all that positive to begin with. I girded my loins prior to writing this piece and tossed it off as perhaps nervousness and/or being thrown by the question.
Ultimately though, it reminded me what a danger it is to art when an artist comes across one way while publicly discussing their work and then foolishly and/or mistakenly throws something out that contradicts his initial feelings towards the work he's created. All of Monroe's attempts to deflect the notion that he was exploiting sexual violence for the edification of scumbags became so much dust in the wind.
So, does the film exploit sexual violence? Of course it does. In all fairness, however, all movies - to varying degrees - are exploitation. One manipulates and exploits in order to derive an audience response, so I'm not going to level any ill will towards the notion of exploitation in the movies, since this is the job of filmmakers - every last one of them (whether they want to believe and/or admit it or not).
That said, I did wonder, just as I wondered when I first saw Meir Zarchi's original 1978 rendering of this tale what, exactly, was the point of this movie? Zarchi's picture was so dreadful, one could barely consider it anything other than a disgusting pile of crap thrown together to give a bunch of sick fucks their jollies.
Zarchi's movie is what it is.
Monroe's is a bit more problematic - especially because it's very well made. In spite of Monroe's craft and that of his key creatives and actors, I still am not sure why the movie exists other than to make a buck off of revelling in the suffering of its characters.
That, I suppose, is the only point. One can try to justify it on a moral or political level - but that's all it would be, justification. I say, let's just call a spade a spade without condemnation. The movie is there simply to shock and titillate. End of story.
And, speaking of story, such as it is, the movie (for those who've been on Mars) is about a woman who seeks solace in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, gets gang-raped and then gets the most gruesome, satisfying revenge. There you have it. There not much more to it than that.
Does it do its job well?
There really isn't a single bad performance in the movie. Each actor playing the rapists is suitably and believably vile and reprehensible. The performance of Sarah Butler as the female victim is certainly brave and delivered with complete professionalism. I will admit, though, it was hard to buy her as a professional novelist since she carried herself with the air of a young freelance magazine journalist trying her hand at writing a novel. That might have been more "realistic", but the filmmakers chose a more implausible role for its heroine.
I will not even begin to suggest that the gang-rape is handled with any sort of sensitivity, but it is definitely presented in the most horrific, graphic fashion and seldom does the extended sequence resort to inspiring (or even attempting to inspire) hard-ons amongst the fellas in the audience (thank Heaven for tender mercies). Monroe shoots the rape in a way that pretty much forces an audience to react as it did - with cheers and hoots of approval when the rape victim eventually gets back at her violators in the most grotesque, nasty, painful ways. I should, perhaps also mention that just because the gang-rape is not shot with the intent to titillate, chances are good that with certain segments of the audience, it will.
So, if you've a desire to see:
(a) a man forced to watch a video monitor with fish hooks keeping his eyelids open whilst fresh fish guts, thrown in his open mutilated eyes, inspire crows to peck his eyeballs out;
(b) a man drowned in a tub full of lye until his head and face are rendered to a pulpy mass;
(c) a man castrated and forced to choke to death on his own testicles and penis;
(d) a man repeatedly sodomized with a shot gun which then goes off, the bullet plunging through his anus, out his mouth and hitting yet another rapist in the head;
then this, ladies and gentlemen, is the movie for you.
The Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2010 schedule can be accessed HERE.