Posts Tagged ‘Remake’

26. I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

Director: Steven R. Monroe

Starring: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Tracy Walter, Andrew Howard

Brave little soldier that I am… and because it was part of the same DVD package as the original… this year, I watched 2010’s “I Spit on Your Grave” back-to-back with its 1978 counterpart. While that’s not a decision I regret (I’d seen both before), the combined brutality of both does leave me feeling a tad unclean. Pretty much every popular horror movie from the 1970s and 1980s has been remade within the last fifteen years. It was only a matter of time before this one happened. It was fate. To its credit, “I Spit on Your Grave” goes out of its way to outdo the original in terms of shocks. It was virtually impossible to make the rape scenes any more graphic without resorting to filming unsimulated sex, so the majority of the shocks and discomfort this time come from the initial physical assault, as well as the near-cartoonish violence during the revenge portion of the story.

Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) is a young novelist who has chosen to spend some time at a secluded cabin in order to work on her latest novel. Unlike the first film, a specific location in the United States is never pinned down. Judging from the accents, I’d call it a safe bet that we’re meant to be somewhere in the Deep South. Along the way, Jennifer comes into contact with gas station attendant Johnny (Jeff Branson) and his friends Stanley (Daniel Franzese) and Andy (Rodney Eastman). Johnny flirts with Sarah but, although she’s polite about it, his advances are all for naught.

When she is not writing, Jennifer spends the rest of her time relaxing in the sun, smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, which she has enough of to put an entire fraternity in the hospital. The cabin she’s staying in isn’t perfect. For one thing, the plumbing needs work, with only dirty brown water coming from it. When Matthew (Chad Lindberg), a plumber with an obvious mental handicap comes to her rescue, Jennifer rewards him with a quick kiss as her way of saying “thanks.” Matthew then goes to his friends… the guys from the gas station… to tell them all about this girl up in a cabin who likes him. His ego still bruised from the earlier encounter, Johnny and the others all decide to go up to the cabin and teach Ms. Hills a lesson.

After some initial harassment which includes tossing dead birds at her window, the four men break into Jennifer’s cabin with the intent of helping Matthew to lose his virginity. They force Jennifer to perform oral sex on a gun and a bottle. Here’s where the movie’s plot takes more than a minor detour from the plot of the original. Jennifer somehow escapes into the woods and finds Sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard) out on a hunting trip. He goes with her back to the cabin, which is now empty. While there, Storch notes her stockpile of alcohol and her stash of marijuana, then takes it upon himself to frisk her. As he is doing this, Jennifer is starting to feel violated. Her concerns are worsened when the boys return, revealing that the they and the Sheriff are all in this together.

Jennifer is held down on the floor. Matthew is pressured into raping her, which he refuses to do. But, when the others begin taunting him and calling him names, Matthew finally relents. After Matthew is finished, Jennifer makes her way out into the woods, where she is cornered and held down again. Storch has his way with her, while Andy periodically holds her head underwater. As they do this, Stanley is filming the entire thing. It’s implied (though not explicitly shown) that the others take their turns as Jennifer passes out from the pain. When she comes to, she gets up and walks toward a bridge. Just as Storch is about to shoot Jennifer, she falls from the bridge, presumably to her death in the water below, although no evidence of her body can be found. Wanting there to be no trace of evidence, Storch destroys Stanley’s tape.

A month passes by. There is some evidence to suggest that Jennifer is still alive, but nothing concrete has yet surfaced. Then Stanley comes to realize that his camera is missing, and he panics. It would seem that the tape which Storch destroyed was blank, and that the tape containing Jennifer’s rape was still inside the camera. Upon hearing this, Johnny almost kills Stanley. Later that night, Johnny is harassed at his home in the same manner that Jennifer was, with dead birds being thrown at his window. When he sees that one of Jennifer’s slippers and a few of Matthew’s bracelets are part of the debris being thrown, Johnny suspects that Matthew is the culprit. When Storch’s wife receives a digital camera-sized tape in the mail, Storch angrily interrogates the boys to find out who sent it. They think it was Matthew. Also, Storch murders his hunting partner (he same man who rented the cabin to Jennifer), citing “loose ends” as his reason.

Matthew, haunted by what happened, goes looking for Jennifer inside the cabin. Finally finding her sitting on the couch waiting for him, an apologetic Matthew breaks down. “Forgiving” Matthew, Jennifer states that his apology isn’t good enough and, remembering how he choked her as he raped her, Jennifer chokes Matthew with a noose until he passes out. This is only the start of her revenge. Jennifer next goes after Stanley and Andy. She captures Stanley in a bear trap, turns on his camera, pins his eyelids back with fishhooks and smears fish guts all over his face. Birds then come and peck his eyes out. The guy who likes to watch can no longer see. Andy gets knocked unconscious with a baseball bat. When Andy comes to, he’s suspended above a tub filled with water. Jennifer pours some lye into the water, then removes one of the boards underneath him. Stanley can’t hold his head out of the water forever… and you can guess what happens when flesh meets lye.

This leaves Johnny and Sheriff Storch. Capturing Johnny, Jennifer recalls how he’d threatened to knock out her teeth. Accordingly, she pulls a few of his out before chopping off his manhood, causing him to bleed to death. Lastly, she lures in the Sheriff by visiting his wife and daughter and then apparently taking the daughter to the park. Storch is knocked out from behind. When he comes to, the man who anally raped Jennifer now has a shotgun shoved up his rectum. The trigger is tied to a string around an unconscious Matthew’s hand. When he wakes up, the gun goes off, killing both men.

While I applaud the writers for connecting each of the murders to actions committed by the men earlier in the film (something which the 1978 film didn’t do), the impracticality of Jennifer actually being able to carry out her plans does detract from it a bit. Not to mention how truly hard to watch it all is. Actress Sarah Butler does a tremendous job displaying Jennifer’s transformation from innocent victim to crazed killer, but I find the ambiguity of the fate of the sheriff’s daughter to be truly unsettling, and it does tend to leave Jennifer a bit less sympathetic than she started out. In fact, I find the inclusion of the Sheriff character and the whole subplot with his family to be one huge and unnecessary complication. The original film (which barely hinted at one of the characters’ families) got along just fine without all of that.

Shockingly, there is not one but two sequels to 2010’s “I Spit on Your Grave,” the latter of which sees the return of Sarah Butler as Jennifer Hills, more bloodthirsty than ever. There’s even apparently going to be a belated sequel to the 1978 film! This begs the obvious question: WHY?! What possible good can come from continuing the story? I can watch both the 1978 and 2010 versions of “I Spit on Your Grave” without much of a problem. It’s all pure fiction, and should be looked at as such. But nothing about either inspires me to actively search for more.

20. Pulse (2006)

Director: Jim Sonzero

Starring: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Millian, Rick Gonzalez

We all have certain kinds of movies that just don’t work for us, no matter how hard we might try. Among the horror genre, mine is ghost stories. The ones where the ghosts live in inanimate objects fall under a particular level of scrutiny. Japanese favorites like “The Ring” and their Americanized remakes have to work extra hard to impress me. Only one has ever succeeded. That one (which we’ll get to) is not 2006’s “Pulse,” itself a remake of a 2001 Japanese film.

Mattie Webber (Kristen Bell) is growing concerned because it’s not like her boyfriend Josh to just drop off the face of the Earth as he seems to have done for the past few days. Her friends are making noises like she’s been ditched, but Mattie isn’t buying it. She finds him in his apartment, days later, doing nothing. His cat hasn’t been fed in quite a while, and the apartment itself is in disarray. Josh appears to have no energy, as though the life has been sucked out of him. Without much warning, Josh hangs himself with an Ethernet cable.

Some time following Josh’s death, Mattie and her friends all receive the same “HELP ME!” message purporting to come from Josh. Surely, this must be some sort of computer virus, they think. Believing that Josh’s computer is still turned on, Mattie returns to his apartment to shut it down. In fact, the computer has been illegally sold. The buyer, a man named Dexter (Ian Somerhalder), still has it in the trunk of his car and hasn’t bothered to turn it on yet. Mattie receives a package in the mail from Josh, sent two days before he killed himself.  Inside are rolls of red tape, and an attached message explaining that… somehow… it keeps “them” out. “They” are ghosts, but exactly why the red tape is so effective against them is never explained, not even vaguely. It just is.

Dexter finds video messages which Josh had been sending to a guy named Ziegler. He shows them to Mattie. They detail how Josh had somehow created a computer virus which acted as a gateway for the ghosts to cross into our world. While you’re absorbing that absurd little nugget, Josh also explains that he thinks he’s created the perfect anti-virus. Dexter and Mattie find the memory stick containing the anti-virus and go looking for Ziegler. By this time, Ziegler is completely paranoid, having covered every square inch of his apartment in red tape and hiding in his closet. He’s well within reason to be paranoid. All around him people are either vanishing into a pile of ash or are committing suicide. He tells Dexter and Mattie where to find the main server in the basement of the apartment complex.

The anti-virus is uploaded, and it appears to work as Josh hoped it would. However, the system then reboots and the ghosts keep coming. Effectively, everything since the discovery of the memory stick has been a complete waste of our time. The paranormal invasion is complete and total, spanning the entire globe. The only thing left for Dexter and Mattie to do is to find a corner of the United States which has no Internet or cell phone coverage, as that’s the only way for the ghosts to get to you.

Despite casting the always adorable Kristen Bell in the lead role, “Pulse” is a cliched, boring mess of a movie. Ghosts in the Internet is an interesting, if bizarre concept. It’s a shame it’s not handled better. “Pulse” gets points for the cameo from Brad Dourif as the eccentric, “the end is nigh” character, but little else redeems it. Perhaps if they’d concentrated a little less on the visuals and focused their time and energy into making us care about the characters and giving us a much better understanding of just what the hell is going on and why, then maybe… just maybe… “Pulse” might have been onto something.