Release Date(s)2015 (October 20, 2015)
Studio(s)Cinetel Films (Anchor Bay)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: N/A
Pauline Kael once said that movies are so rarely great art that if we can’t appreciate great trash there’s little reason to go. I don’t really agree with that statement – I think movies are great art an awful lot of the time – but I do agree that one of the truest pleasures of moviegoing is seeking out and discovering disreputable little gems, exploitation flicks and B-movies that transcend their limitations to provide genuine wit and energy. I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance is Mine is such a movie, a violent and tasteless revenge flick (in this context, I mean violent and tasteless as compliments) elevated by the inventiveness of its brutality and a spectacular lead performance that would garner accolades and awards if it belonged to a more “respectable” film. Viewers who aren’t into horror movies, particularly of the more graphic variety, will likely be repulsed by I Spit on Your Grave III, but it delivers everything it promises and more for those interested in buying what it’s selling – on its own primal terms, it’s kind of a masterpiece.
I Spit on Your Grave III is not a sequel to I Spit on Your Grave II, but a continuation of the events of the 2010 I Spit on Your Grave, which was itself a remake of Meir Zarchi’s notorious 1978 rape-revenge thriller. In the 2010 film, Sarah Butler played Jennifer Hills, a young woman who was brutally raped and then dished out gory, extremely satisfying vengeance against her attackers. Butler’s performance in that movie, which was a ruthlessly effective horror film, was remarkable in both its range and depth. It was also virtually ignored given the movie’s debased status as a remake of a movie so reviled in its time that Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel consistently trotted it out as not only a bad film, but a kind of crime against humanity. Zarchi’s original film was better and had a greater sense of purpose than Siskel and Ebert gave it credit for, and the same could be said of the remake. The 2013 sequel to the remake, which abandoned Jennifer Hills for a new story involving sex trafficking, was an ugly and pointless exercise in sadism – the very thing both versions of the first I Spit were wrongly accused of being.
Butler is back for I Spit III, which is both the least exploitative and the most entertaining film in the series. The conceit here is that Jennifer Hills has changed her name and is part of a therapy group for rape victims; when one of her friends is murdered by an abusive boyfriend and Jennifer learns that the rapists of some of the other group members have gone free, she decides to spring into action, bringing down vengeance on the rapists one by one. This premise ingeniously allows writer Daniel Gilboy and director RD Braunstein to deliver the satisfactions of the previous films in the series without having to get into the ideologically unfortunate business of showing the heroine being raped before she turns the tables on her attackers. Here, the “rape-revenge” subgenre of horror is largely transformed into straightforward revenge, and that revenge is delivered in some diabolically funny, disturbing ways. The set pieces in which Butler’s character makes the rapists pay for their crimes are extraordinarily effective – original, entertaining, and unsettling.
The material between the set pieces is strong too, thanks to another spectacular performance by Butler and some strong supporting work from the other actors. I Spit on Your Grave III is surprisingly attentive to character and dialogue, with acting that’s consistently superior to what one usually finds in low-budget horror these days. Gilboy also gets a lot of mileage out of exploring – but mostly poking fun at – the notion that forgiveness and reconciliation are more healing than revenge. No one’s going to mistake the film’s level of moral and philosophical inquiry for that of Ingmar Bergman (whose The Virgin Spring could possibly be considered to be the first rape-revenge movie), but neither is it the mindless exercise in violence that one might expect. On just about every level I Spit on Your Grave III is a better movie than it needed to be; theoretically it’s going to sell and rent about the same number of copies regardless of its actual quality, so the fact that the filmmakers and actors went the extra mile to create something special is well worth celebrating.
The cinematography by Richard Vialet is refreshingly elegant, with a dynamic use of the widescreen frame and subtle gradations of light and shadow that are well presented on Anchor Bay’s 2.40:1 transfer. Flesh tones are a little desaturated, which is in keeping with the overall style of the film. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound mix is superb; as with the rest of the film, there’s a greater attention to detail and nuance than one ordinarily finds in a low-budget shocker, with subtle effects across the surround channels and crisp, clear dialogue perfectly balanced with a robust presentation of Edwin Wendler’s excellent score. (There are no extra features on the disc.) I realize that films like I Spit on Your Grave III are not for everybody, and anyone looking for a more “tasteful” viewing experience had best move along. But if confrontational, no holds barred horror is your cup of tea, the people who made I Spit on Your Grave III know what you like, and they know how to give it to you.
- Jim Hemphill