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It’s a lot harder to disgust viewers in these days of torture porn than it was at the close of the 1970s, when the revenge flick “I Spit on Your Grave” (aka “Day of the Woman”) crawled into theaters with an ostensible female-empowerment theme many saw as an excuse to depict multiple grueling rapes. Remaking that film is a dubious undertaking; it has yielded a movie that might be slightly more palatable than the first but will be much more quickly forgotten.
A market for gross-out torture surely exists, but without the gimmicky torments and style-heavy presentation of “Saw” and its ilk, “Grave” seems unlikely to find much of it. Producers might view its marketplace handicaps with pride, claiming to have sacrificed flash for an earthy identification with their heroine, but they’ll have a hard time selling that to many feminists.
Setting up the action in familiar slasher-film mode, “Grave” leaves little room for accusations that it identifies with the rapists — filthy, dumb hillbillies who run a gas station and clearly are intimidated by city girl Jennifer (Sarah Butler), who rents a cabin in the nearby woods.
After a bit of stalking and one hard-to-swallow twist, they’re joined by a more intriguing villain, a ringleader capable of pausing in the middle of triple-X sadism to sweetly answer a call from his young daughter. The gang abuses Jennifer in predictably degrading ways — borrowing heavily from “Deliverance” — then assumes she is dead when she falls off a bridge into a river.
Jennifer might as well be dead for all the spirit we see when she returns to kill her assailants one by one. Butler, aiming for a shellshocked single-mindedness, offers a monotonous performance that makes her seem less a woman regaining control of her life than a bloodthirsty zombie. It doesn’t help that the script simply has her repeating back the lewd, unimaginative taunts the men lobbed at her earlier on.
What she does to each of those men is appropriately extreme, a catalog of violated orifices and severed appendages, and will be enough to gratify whatever sad souls like to watch this stuff on a Friday night. But in terms of real horror, nevermind sexual-politics provocation, “Grave” can neither re-create its predecessor’s impact nor compete with stranger new beasts like Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist.”
Opens: Friday, Oct. 8 (Anchor Bay)
Production: Family of the Year Prods. Cast: Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Tracey Walter, Andrew Howard
Director: Steven R. Monroe
Screenwriter: Stuart Morse
Producers: Lisa Hansen, Paul Hertzberg
Executive producers: Meir Zarchi, Alan Ostroff, Jeff Klein, Gary Needle
Director of photography: Neil Lisk
Production designer: Dins Danielsen
Music: Corey Allen Jackson
Costume designer: Bonnie Stauch
Editor: Daniel Duncan
No rating, 107 minutes
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