October 17, 2015

Movie Review: I Spit on Your Grave III - Vengeance is Mine

1978 was the year that the original I Spit on Your Grave was unleashed by writer/director Meir Zachi. The movie did not have much, well, any Hollywood polish. It is a rough, grimy, dirty movie that leaves you wanting to take a shower. It was famously shredded by Roger Ebert who claimed it had no artistic merit, should not be seen by anyone, and has no reason to exist. Of course, I disagree and it appears I am not alone as the film was remade, had a sequel to the remake and now a second sequel to the remake. I am pretty sure that no one ever predicted this kind of life for a grimy no budget film such as this.

The remake arrived in 2010 and starred Sarah Butler as Jennifer Hills, a writer going to a secluded cabin getaway to write. The problem is that she stumbles across a group of ne'er do wells (including Rodney Eastman from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4), who attack her, rape her, and leave her for dead. Of course, as well all know (spoiler alert?), she did not die and gets her revenge in violent and gruesome fashion. The sequel to the remake came in 2013, I understand the story is similar, but I have not seen it. Now, in 2015, we have the second sequel, which sees the return of Sarah Butler and a change in the story formula.

Directed by RD Braunstein and written by Daniel Gilboy (who produced the first two and is making his screenwriting debut here), I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance is Mine takes in a different angle. Rather than follow the same formula as the what has been established in the series to this point, they changed it up a bit. First, this is first time they have brought back a character from a prior entry and second they give it a strong Death Wish/Ms. 45 feel to it. The result is not the best, but it is a nice addition to the franchise.

The movie catches up with Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler), she has moved to a new town and has changed her name to Angela. She attends counseling sessions and is trying to put the events of the remake behind her. Of course, this proves difficult, and why shouldn’t it? I am not sure I would be able to get over the trauma she experienced, not to mention the violent revenge she dished out. I would want to escape myself and be someone else too, although I am not sure I’d ever be able to escape.

During the group sessions, she meets Marla (Jennifer Landon), a woman who has somewhat come to terms with her past. The two become fast friends and is the first person Jennifer, err, Angela has been able to trust since the attack. The two take a somewhat proactive approach to putting a stop to these attacks. Of course things end badly, well, without giving too much away, things escalate and Angela takes to the streets to do a little clean up of her own.

I Spit on Your Grave III moves away from the same sort of rape/revenge thread in the prior films and sees a more proactive approach from the start. Rather than going through the motions of the initial attack and the ultimate revenge, this is more a look at a victim suffering PTSD and seeking her own brand of justice when the police appear ineffective.

It is not a great film, it seems a little too talky for its own good at times, but the characters are well drawn and there are a couple of moments that are sure to induce some cringing. The movie follows the established formula, not unlike the Death Wish films. It has our heroine experiencing tragedy and then finding her own strength to go out and do what the police can’t.

The story is a compelling one, probably one that has played out in the minds of many people out there. The idea of something like this happening to me or someone I care about is awful, compound that with the lack of justice, it makes it easy to think about going out for some old school vengeance.

Back to the movie, like I mentioned, it is hardly the best thing out there, but I stayed with it. It is like a pulpy, low rent Ms. 45. Where the older film has a lot of artistic merit going in its favor, not to mention the great lead performance from Zoe Tamerlis, this new movie feels like a lower common denominator entry. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is definitely not an artful driven piece, it is grimy, pulpy, and does not hide its intentions. It lack subtlety.

Definitely worth checking out. If you keep your expectations in check. I’d say the worst thing about the film is the screenplay which never really finds a footing, explaining too much and telling too little. Marla is an interesting character that I wish we had more of, same goes for the detective. Sarah Butler carries the movie with her solid screen presence as she builds her character nicely on top of her work in her prior outing.

It is interesting to note that I met Sarah Butler at a convention not long ago and she mentioned that she had been contacted about an I Spit on Your Grave sequel that brought in Ms. 45 elements. I told I was all for it, now here it is. I’d like to take a touch of credit for the movie. Well, not really. Also, the score by Edwin Wendler is also pretty solid and adds to the atmosphere of the piece.

The film is presented in a ratio of 2.4:1 and looks pretty good. Colors are sharp, blacks are deep, and there is plenty of detail in the closeups. The audio is TrueHD 5.1, and it too is not too shabby, it makes good use of the surrounds and helps build what atmosphere there is,

On the extras front, it is quite disappointing with nothing. Seriously, not even a trailer is included.

It certainly seems like a budget release. The technical side looks good, though, and the movie is one I like having in my collection. If you are a fan of this sort of film, it is worth checking out. I doubt it will win over new fans, but that is all right.


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