What Can Be Said About 'I Spit On your Grave III: Vengeance is Mine'?

This can be said: spit this one out.

I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance is MIne

Rated: NA
Director: RD Braunstein
Cast: Sarah Butler, Jennifer Landon, Doug McKeon, Gabriel Hogan,
Extras: N/A
Release: 2015-10-01
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment, LLC.

I remember watching Meir Zarchi's original 1978 I Spit on Your Grave, though initially titled, confusingly based on its content, Day of the Woman, when I was in high school. My friends and I were young, naïve, living in the days when the Internet was more suited to AIM and MySpace, than the over present digital plugin we know now.

Without any sort of context, we grabbed this film from the local video store, ran over to the nearest friend’s house, and popped it in.

There was a girl there I liked very much and I felt that this movie, based off the little I gleaned from the back cover and my own braggadocio on what constituted a good film, would see that I was one of very good tastes. Perhaps hands would be held. Perhaps more than that.

After the 101 minutes passed, the dozen or so teenagers in the darkened living room sat speechless. Our jaws stretched downwards at the repeated, visceral, elongated scenes of rape, abuse, and murder. I always knew a beer bottle looked a bit phallic but had never seen it deployed as this. Some of us had tears in our eyes. Needless to say, no hands were held that night. We all needed showers, instead.

The original I Spit on Your Grace was a nightmare of exploitation. It wasn’t even fun exploitation. It was ugly, spiteful, mean, and, most unforgivably, dumb. It’s a shame that one of my most memorable cinematic experiences comes from a film so utterly devoid of redeeming qualities that it’s a stand-in for romantic aspirations deferred.

I Spit on Your Grave was infamous well before my own encounter. Once I learned the film was not only remade in 2010, but spun off into not just one, but also, a second sequel, I knew I had to come back to something that had caused such a deep psychic scar, at least to confront it, and overcome it.

Enter I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance Is Mine. Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler), a survivor of sexual assault and abuse, is trying to put her life back together. Working a numbing job, with overeager coworkers, and attending group therapy of fellow victims, she falls in with bitter Marla (Jennifer Landon) a survivor with a more proactive (and violent) approach to recovery. All the while, Hills sits down on the couch with her own therapist, narrating the film’s events.

This isn’t a good film. That isn’t a surprising statement when it comes to exploitation films. The acting is subpar and the cinematography is pedestrian. However, exploitation films, B-movies, those that still survive, have always been able to circumvent these shortcomings of talent and budget by being memorable, outrageous, and having a sense of absurdity and offensiveness.

I Spit on Your Grace III: Vengeance Is Mine has none of these things. Yes, it does feature blood. Yes, it does feature sexual abuse. Yes, people die. There’s a memorable scene where Hills lures the stepfather, abuser of an ingénue group member, to an abandoned warehouse. She subdues the man, binds him, and rapes him with a large piece of metal. Eventually, she takes a sledgehammer to the painfully placed piece of pipe.

While this would seem right at home in an exploitation film, what works against it is the framing device of Hills working with her therapist. Only at the end do we see that Hills has been in prison this whole time (in a very shameless connection to Orange is the New Black complete with knock-off outfits. Even some of the extras seem analogues for the show’s characters.) What this reveals is the film is entirely a creation of Hills' own account. This casts doubt on whether what’s occurred had actual narrative implications or was simply a flight of fancy, as a number of the more violent scenes reveal themselves as.

Furthermore, Hills’ friend, Marla, the instigator of their vengeance streak, is dispatched off-screen by her abusive boyfriend. Of course, he in turn is killed by Hills. There’s a sense both actors walked from the production. That’s the problem. There isn’t a sense of stakes in this film.

The most egregious, bloodcurdling, date,ruining film a la 1978’s I Spit on Your Grave at least had a sense that what you saw was meant to provoke and offend, even if it was in horrible taste. This installment lacks that edge, debatably worthwhile as it might be. Each scene of violence is cast in an indeterminate light.

Did this really happen or did Hills simply dream this? From start to finish there's no clear sense that what unfolded even mattered.

Ambiguity isn’t a bad thing in film. Not by any measure. Some of the best are mired in it. But in a film where two women frighten a drunken man so much that he soils himself, where a man is murdered by pipe-to-the-rectum, where a female character offers oral sex only to chew off a penis, ambiguity is not desired. You want something concrete. Few things are as distasteful as blank exploitation, to violate for violation’s sake.

Transgression can expand the boundaries of the acceptable. But to transgress and simply chalk it up as fantasy or a dream pushes nothing. We’re back at square one, and only feeling the worse for it.

There were no extras with this DVD


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