"You don't know where you are? You're in Bulgaria."
By this stage in I Spit On Your Grave 2, the remake sequel that nobody really wanted, American would-be fashion model Katie (Jenna Dallender) has been bound, gagged, raped, made to witness murder, drugged, raped again and pissed on - but it is the news that she is now in Southeastern Europe that really sends her over the edge. "No, no, no, no!" she wails, somewhat ridiculously, "I don't know how I got here."
Viewers will be similarly puzzled. Apparently Bulgarian brothers Ivan (Joe Absalom), Georgy (Yavor Baharov) and Nick (Aleksandar Aleksiev) think the easiest way to clean up a crime scene in New York is to pack their still-living victim in a box, to get it somehow through airport security, to fly it to Sofia, to pimp Katie there to an electricity-obsessed sadist (Peter Silverleaf), and only then to kill her. If this seems a less than economic solution, then economy is hardly to be expected from an exploitation flick that is an inexcusably long 105 minutes in duration. Quentin Tarantino can get away with more than an hour and a half, but Tarantino's scripts are altogether less banal and perfunctory than this.
Director Steven R. Monroe follows the now familiar rape-revenge contours of both Meir Zarchi's original 1978 'nasty' I Spit On Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman) and his own 2010 remake, and broadly clings to the feminism of Zarchi's original. Thus Katie, far from being a passive victim, is shown repeatedly resisting her male attackers in every way she can, and there is nothing titillating in the portrayal either of the rapes or of her nudity (in fact matched symmetrically by Ivan's full-frontal nudity in the climactic sequence). Yet in shifting events beyond US borders to the Bulgarian underground, Monroe takes the male misogyny that was so uncomfortably homegrown in the original(s), and projects it conveniently on foreign 'others', in imitation of the xenophobia of, say, Hostel or Taken. This represents a considerable dilution of the earlier films' impact - for we are now merely tourists in an overseas adventureland, rather than being confronted with the evils within.
Horrifically assaulted and left for dead, Katie will rise again, settling the score with a vengeance that is quite literally biblical (inspired by the reading matter left for her by a kindly priest). As she turns her attackers' own words against them, she metes out grotesque, gory punishments designed both to fit and parody their crimes - after all, as she said in an earlier, New York-set scene, "I know how to catch me some vermin." Yet in the absence of crimes that make any sense or perpetrators with any good qualities to offset the bad, I Spit On Your Grave 2 ends up being precisely the reprehensible, pointless piece of shit that Zarchi's original is often (wrongly, in my opinion) accused of being. For it panders to the viewer's basest instincts without even once interrogating them, and presents revenge as something entirely unproblematic. And when it's all over, we, like Katie, can just go home.
'I Spit On Your Grave 2' screens at Film4 FrightFest...
Main Screen, Sun 25th August, 11.30pm
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