I Spit On Your Grave (1978), starring Camille Keaton (a distant relative of silent movie star Buster Keaton), was a film which became legendary due to its notoriety. In 2010 this cult classic was, many would say unnecessarily, revisited, making audiences nauseated all over again. Apart from seeing the occasional trailer and clip on YouTube, I’m thankful that I can admit to never having seen either of these films – I love horror, but even I find the thought of the infamous DIY male castration scene a step too far in the name of entertainment. Unfortunately I can not now claim the same about I Spit On Your Grave 2, the sequel and equally depraved followup to the remake. Having just watched director Steven R. Monroe’s nauseating exercise, starring Jemma Dallender, Yavor Baharov, Joe Absolom and Aleksandar Aleksiev, I can truly say that it is one of the few films I’ve seen where I actually wish I could rewind time and erase its memory from my mind.
Katie (Dallender) has recently arrived in New York, with the hope of hitting it big as a model. However, after meeting a friend whose opinion of her portfolio is less than encouraging, Katie finds herself psychologically rock bottom, and broke. One night after finishing her shift as a waitress at a local restaurant, Katie picks up an advert from a photographer offering test shots for would-be models. Deciding to give it one last try, she sets up an appointment at the photographer’s studio. Though initially the shoot goes well, it soon becomes clear that the photographer and his friends are looking for something more than money in exchange for the resulting work – and they don’t react well when Katie clearly decides that she isn’t willing to pay their ‘prices’.
Before discussing what’s wrong with I Spit On Your Grave 2 – and believe me this could go on for some time – let me answer those who will inevitably ask why I watched the film in the first place, when I must have known of its reputation beforehand. Well yes I did, but, like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, the more you’re warned against something the more you want it – besides how bad could it really be? Well believe me its bad.
Spending too much time discussing this film is tantamount to legitimising it by extended coverage. Suffice to say that even for hardcore gore and torture porn fans, I Spit On Your Grave 2 takes onscreen violence to a whole new level. The filmmakers will no doubt debate that it depicts the lengths a person can be pushed to when they are degraded and subjected to inhuman treatment. It could also, like the original film, be seen as an essay on the strength of women fighting a male dominated and chauvinistic world. However this would merely be an excuse for depravity, by both the male and female characters, which really has no place in the name of entertainment. At one point, just before Katie embarks on her journey of one-woman vigilantism, she is offered a lifeline which would theoretically offer her a means for legal revenge. Unfortunately, though this may ultimately have given her the moral high ground and a clear conscience, it wouldn’t make for a particularly harrowing story – which, when it boils down to it, is all those behind the film are really interested in.
Having said this there are, believe it or not, some points in the film’s favour – a couple of clever touches which, if not making the experience palatable, at least show a degree of thought having gone into the story. One thread, which I can’t elaborate on without spoiling a central aspect of the plot, shows some originality in relation to the development of the characters, though it may not help further relations between America and Eastern Europe. More impressive is the way in which Katie’s retribution on each of her tormentors is based on the form of maltreatment they subjected her to. However sharp though this might seem, it does not detract from the excruciating and toe-curling lengths she goes to in order to extract her revenge – one scene in particular will have male viewers cringing in sympathy if indeed they can bare to watch it.
The cast, on the whole, give hard hitting performances. Most impressive is newcomer Dallender, who is marvellous as the central protagonist Katie, taking her from a wide eyed innocent in New York to a ferocious and resourceful woman when she is pushed to the edge by the inhuman treatment she later suffers at the hands of her barbaric tormentors. Let’s just hope this promising young actress chooses her next vehicle with more care, if she is to display the same instinct for survival in her chosen career of acting.