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Monday, October 31, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 31: MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967)

The Monster enjoys an electrical pick-me-up.

When Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) decides to retire and name a successor to his position of the world's monster elite, he announces a gala event on his remote island/laboratory and invites an all-star who's-who of baleful creatures of the night. Along with his infamous Monster and its mate (Phyllis Diller), the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Hunchback, the Mummy, the Werewolf, and of course Count Dracula all show up, some with their eyes greedily fixed upon the successorship. But Frankenstein throws an unintentional curveball by inviting his nebbishy pharmacist nephew, Felix Flanken, to the proceedings, with the lad firmly in mind as his replacement.

Felix Flanken and his uncle, Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff).

That does not sit well with the glitterati of monsterdom, especially not with Dracula and the Monster's mate, plus to say nothing of Dr. Frankenstein's impossibly gorgeous redheaded assistant, Francesca. The hapless Felix swiftly and utterly unknowingly finds himself the target of multiple half-assed assassination attempts, but an even greater threat looms in the form of a titanic uninvited guest who seeks to wreak vengeful havoc...

A grand monster rally.

Finding appropriate fare for the wee ones around Halloween can be a bitch, since much of the scary movie material about there would be considered wholly inappropriate by most parents. (But not by uncles of my stripe, let me tell you!) That's where the magic world of Rankin/Bass Productions comes to the rescue. Renowned and beloved for their now-classic annual holiday television specials, such as RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964), SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN (1970), THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS (1974, which features the fan-favorite "Heat Miser/Snow Miser" numbers), and the excellent L. Frank Baum adaptation, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (1985), the company crafted charming and fun stop-motion animated specials and features brought to life by skilled animators in Japan, and this theatrical feature film was always a favorite and must-watch offering whenever it aired on television during the youth of those of us who are now of a certain age. 

The narrative is basically a case of "What if Mad Magazine made HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN?"— an aspect driven home by character designs courtesy of Mad stalwart Jack Davis — with no classic monster trope left untouched and lampooned, with Dracula pretty much stealing film with his snobbish, assholish treachery. He's a riot whenever he's onscreen, and his questionable alliances come back to bite him on his pallid ass.

Dracula and Francesca: Strange bedfellows?

It should also be noted that MAD MONSTER PARTY? features Francesca, the Doctor's buxom redheaded assistant, and if ever there were an animated puppet who gave little boys their first crush, she was it And there's more to her than there seems to be upon first glance...

Little Tibea and the Fibulas performing "It's the Mummy."

The film also features the signature musical scoring of Maury Laws, whose brass-heavy compositions are instantly recognizable to all who grew up on Rankin/Bass' output. MAD MONSTER PARTY? is replete with memorable theme tunes for its characters and a number of great songs, including the quasi-psychedelic "It's the Mummy" (to which the Mummy and the Monster's mate rock out) and the moody, evocative title song by Ethel Ennis. "The Monster Mash" is long overdue for dethroning from its lofty position as the go-to Halloween anthem, and I herewith nominate "Mad Monster Party?" to now bear the crown. Judge for yourself:

In shirt, the family simply cannot go wrong with MAD MONSTER PARTY? and no childhood of true "monster kids" is complete without it.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2016, FROM THE VAULT OF BUNCHENESS!!!

Poster from the original theatrical release. Art by the legendary Frank Frazetta.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 30: JAWS AT 40

NOTE: This piece originally ran back in June of 2015 but I felt the need to break it out for those who missed it.

There are some movies that are sheer perfection when seen properly projected, and JAWS is one of them. Arguably the first true summer blockbuster, as we have come to understand the form, the film has been re-released for limited screenings during this, its fortieth anniversary, so I hauled myself to the temple of the flickering image to take in an all-too-rare revival of a horror masterpiece.

Seeing it on the big screen (at the Union Square multiplex in Manhattan) for the first time in 40 years transported me right back to being a few days shy of turning 10 and my embracing of it as my favorite movie for a couple of years. In my early years I had my career goal set on being a marine biologist with a concentration on shark studies and I dragged my parents to every shark-related activity that I could gain access to, so seeing JAWS was an inevitability. Though rated PG, the film's poster featured the ominous tacked-on caveat, "MAY BE TOO INTENSE FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN," which only guaranteed the attendance of this budding gorehound, so considering that and the fact that it all boiled down to a story about a huge goddamned shark merrily munching its way through summer season beachgoers (and a hapless dog), you had a recipe for perfect entertainment. (And as long as we're keeping it real, whatever would transpire onscreen couldn't be any more intense or emotionally scarring than the daily witnessing of my parents' marriage rocketing down the bowl.) And when I finally did see JAWS, I fucking loved it. It was a perfect "man versus force of nature" yarn, sort of an ancient seaman's legend writ for the late-20th century, and it's that primal simplicity of the narrative, coupled with some stunning sequences of suspense and stellar characterization, that so resonates. 

It was great to see JAWS again with an audience and when the lights went down, it was like settling in as a skilled elder storyteller wove a yarn to scare and enthrall kids while also instilling in them the strong and basic lesson of taking what lurks in the depths seriously. There were some audience members who were clearly veterans from the first go-round but the majority of attendees were thirty or younger, most of whom had seen the movie numerous times on cable or DVD, and the few who who had never seen it before were easy to spot, thanks to their sudden vocalizations of shock in all the places that scared the motherfucking shit out of us back in the summer of 1975.

The horror from the deep revealed.

For the record, my favorite moment is still the part where Brody chums the water and meets the shark — sea monster, really — face-to-face, after which he backs into the Orca's interior, his face a frozen, stunned mask of horror as he matter-of-factly states, "You're going to need a bigger boat..." Also of note, you could have heard an amoeba fart during Quint's chilling recounting of his experience following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, so all-consuming was the silence in the auditorium. The moment when Quint describes reaching over to wake up his friend, only to have the man tip over to reveal that he had been devoured from below the waist by one of perhaps a thousand tiger sharks... *SHUDDER*

Quint (Robert Shaw) makes with one of the most riveting and horrifying speeches in the annals of cinema.

Seriously, if it's playing anywhere near you, hie your ass to the theater and pay your respects as a true cinephile by seeing JAWS again as it was intended. I'll never watch it again unless it's projected and you can bet your ass I'll be there for the 50th anniversary.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 29: ARE GODZILLA MOVIES HORROR FILMS?

In 1954, a dread horror arose from the deep.

Godzilla, king of the monsters. The implacable radioactive leviathan who leaves naught but death and destruction in his wake. That's a description that runs at odds with the goofy/silly image the name conjures up for most casual observers. To most, Godzilla is the epitome of "fakey" special effects and zipper-up-the-back monster suits, and, to be fair, that assessment is not necessarily inaccurate, depending on which of the character's 29 films one sees. Series entries like GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER (1966), GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969, in which Godzilla does not even attempt revenge),  the infamous GODZILLA VS GIGAN (1972, in which Godzilla and his pal Anguirus talk), and GODZILLA VS MEGALON (1973) largely eclipse the better, more serious-minded and lavish entries in the perception of the general public. But if one goes back to the 1954 GOJIRA, which was later dubbed and released in the U.S. as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, one encounters a film that could not be further away from its descendants if it tried.

The 1954 GOJIRA, especially in its unaltered Japanese version, is straight-uphorror of the first order, a rumination on nuclear warfare crafted by the only people in history to endure such a scorching nightmare firsthand. Shot in moody black & white, the first Godzilla film presents its titular beast as a radiation-scarred behemoth with no rhyme or reason to its attacks. Godzilla simply is, and what it is is death and destruction given flesh as a force of nature. No punches are pulled when depicting the doom and misery that it brings, as cities are leveled and burned and human life is snuffed out as easily as one would step on an ant. We see buildings collapse on innocent families, emergency wards full to capacity with broken and irradiated victims, and the whole endeavor fairly screams of utter hopelessness and despair. The filmmakers at Toho Studios very successfully communicated the terror of the atomic bomb in no uncertain terms, and anyone who comes away from experiencing the first Godzilla film as anything other than a bleak descent into a science and warfare-spawned hell was obviously not paying attention. All of the subsequent Godzilla movies, wildly varying in quality as they do, are fun matinee and weekend afternoon TV fodder, but the original is a textbook example of a horror movie directly expressing the well-founded fears of the society that created it. 

I strongly recommend GOJIRA to those who have not yet seen it, if for no reason other than to experience one of the bleakest films ever made and definitely the darkest effort in the annals of giant monster cinema. A feel-good movie it absolutely ain't.

Poster from the original Japanese theatrical release.

Friday, October 28, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016 Day 28: DOCTOR WHO "PYRAMIDS OF MARS" (1975)

"I am Sutekh the Destroyer. Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness. I find that good."

1911: Professor Marcus Scarman (Bernard Archard) unearths the tomb of the ancient Egyptian god Sutekh the Destroyer (aka Set), which dooms him to servitude as the evil god's undead slave. Eons ago, the Egyptian gods, led by Osiris himself, waged war against Sutekh and imprisoned him on Mars, hopefully forever, in order to prevent him from wiping out all life in the universe. But now Sutekh has found a possible way out of his imprisonment and employs Scarman and a number of robot mummies to facilitate that goal, and it looks like nothing can prevent the dark deity from unleashing a swath of destruction across the whole of creation. Nothing, that is, until the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) interrupt their aimless galavanting through space and time and enter the fray. The pair of intrepid time-traveling adventurers swiftly realize that they have to intervene, lest all be lost, which they see firsthand by jumping to 1980 and finding the Earth a devastated wasteland due to their not getting involved. But how does even someone as formidable as our favorite Time Lord defeat the last of the Osirans, a being of vast cosmic power whose sole purpose is to destroy all life everywhere?

 The Doctor investigates.

PYRAMIDS OF MARS nearly always turns up on lists and polls citing the all-time classic DOCTOR WHO stories, and deservedly so. It's a triumph of solid writing and acting overcoming all-too-obvious budgetary limitations (too put it very kindly), and it evokes the best of the often mishandled Egyptian curse/mummy sub-genre of horror. In many ways, especially when remembering that classic DOCTOR WHO was a straight-up children's program, albeit one that unabashedly brought legitimate scares, this story is the perfect entry level mummy yarn for kids. So what if the mummies are actually robots? They still shamble about and murder people, so they're doing their designated genre trope job.

A horrible way to die: Having one's neck crushed between the pronounced chest ridges of powerful robot mummies.

The atmosphere of England in the early 1900's is perfectly evoked, as is the then-exotic flavor of recently rediscovered ancient Egyptian artifacts and culture. Speaking of which, Sutekh is one of the series' all-time greatest villains, if not the all-time greatest, in that he is a genuine cosmic entity of incalculable power whom it took and entire pantheon of gods to initially imprison, and his threat should he get loose again is on a downright Lovecraftian scale. In fact, Sutekh would have been right at home in one of H.P. Lovecraft's pulp tales of eldritch entities that drive mere mortals to states of gibbering insanity. Portrayed with unforgettable resonance and utter evil arrogance by Gabriel Woolf, Sutekh is hands down my favorite antagonist for the Doctor and I would love to see him brought back in the rebooted series (though considering how this story wraps up, that's pretty fucking unlikely).

Sutekh unmasked.

This story also allows the regulars to shine. Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor is in fine form, even behaving in ways that remind us that first and foremost he is an alien and a pragmatists, especially when forced to deal with something as universally horrific as Sutekh, so his lapses into seemingly cold-hearted handling of matters makes perfect sense. Sarah Jane, who was seldom a damsel in distress type, is given a lot to do here and comes through like the stalwart assistant that she is legendary for being. Once the seriousness of the situation is made apparent, she's right there at  the Doctor's side, showing a surfeit of pluck and good old British take charge no nonsense ass-kickery, especially when wielding an elephant gun.

 Sarah takes care of business.

I've been a DOCTOR WHO fan since the show first hit the States in 1978, and I tuned in every week for the serialized half-hour installments with great eagerness, thanks to stories of the level of quality displayed in PYRAMIDS OF MARS. Old school WHO always treated its audience with intelligence, an attitude that's forever commendable in children's entertainment, and if I'd seen this story when I was in the single digits, I would have felt that I'd stumbled upon something very special indeed. That said, there's one caveat about this story and old school WHO in general that I should offer for the uninitiated. Pre-reboot DOCTOR WHO was a series marked by its impoverished budget and consequent dodgy special effects and sets, much of which is laughable to modern sensibilities, but that's easily overlooked if one just lets oneself go with the stories and remember that they are a product of decades ago and told with a more decompressed style of storytelling. I much prefer DOCTOR WHO in its serialized form, which allowed more time for richer characterization and the fleshing-out of stories, as opposed to the rushed done-in-one (or two) format of the current iteration. Anyway, PYRAMIDS OF MARS is a classic for several good reasons and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 27: TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010)

Our heroes: Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine).

I can't speak for you, but I fucking love "hicksploitation" movies, flicks about ordinary suburbanites running afoul of homicidal rednecks, hillbillies, and other assorted white trash stereotypes. The textbook example of the form would be DELIVERANCE (1972), with TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964), SHANTY TRAMP (1967), POOR PRETTY EDDIE (1975), SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981), and EDEN LAKE (2008) also serving as prime examples, and there are a ton more to delve into. That said, it was only a matter of time before somebody made a film that lampooned the sub-genre, so I'm glad to say that TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL is about as good of a parody of this department as one could hope for.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a pair of hillbillies straight out of reruns of HEE-HAW, and they are about as lovable as humanly possible. The pair take a vacation at a remote fixer-upper cabin deep in the Appalachians, with the intent of restoring the place and enjoying hours of serene fishing, but their deep woods idyll is flushed straight down the shitter when they meet a group of college frat boys and their girlfriends at the local general store. Shy and awkward Dale is smitten by pretty blonde psychology major Allison (Katrina Bowden) but his tongue-tied attempt at talking with her is mis-interpreted as a creepy advance, so the frat gang gets it into their heads that our sweet rednecks are a couple of DELIVERANCE-style potential murderers/arse-rapists.

Frat boy douchebags and their willing females.

Unfortunately, the frat shitheads set up camp near Tucker and Dale's cabin and while out doing some nighttime skinny-dipping while T&D fish and swill Pabst Blue Ribbons nearby, Allison falls off of a rock, knocking herself out, and our heroes come to her rescue, putting her into their boat and rowing her back to their cabin. This is witnessed by the frat assholes, who instantly assume that the hillbillies have kidnapped Allison for all manner of nefarious degradations before her inevitable murder, so the frat bros and their girls, led by the ultra-assholish and clearly psychotic Chad (Jesse Moss), decide to wage a half-assed guerrilla war against the totally innocent and well-intentioned Tucker and Dale. 

The lovely Allison (Katrina Bowden).

While holed up and recuperating from her injuries in the cabin, Allison gets to know Dale and finds him to be a sweet and charming teddy bear of a man, and in no time the seeds of romance are planted.    Unfortunately, Allison's frat pals make all the wrong assumptions and attempt to take out Tucker and Dale in ways that violently and gorily backfire on them. In other words, it's like a misunderstanding-fueled French farce gene-spliced with Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol.

A poorly-timed tackle ends in nasty results.

TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL would have been fun if it had merely been a standard comedy, but its knowing ribbing of its genre and its willingness to be outrageously, hilariously gory elevates it above most humor/horror fusions. Horror comedy is a notoriously hard flavor to get just right, as is evidenced by how relatively few good ones there are — ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), GHOSTBUSTERS (1984), and DEADALIVE (1992), to name some must-see examples — and this film absolutely nails it.

The unintentional chainsaw chase that made me laugh out loud and was the deciding moment that made me love this movie. Seriously, I actually said out loud, "That's it. I fucking love this movie!!!"

Bottom line: Trust Yer Bunche and check this one out, especially if you're well-versed in the lore of hicksploitation. You will not be disappointed.

Poster from the theatrical release.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 26: BIG TITS ZOMBIE (2011)

"Idiot. I've always hated you. Now I'll step on your face. With a shoe full of dog shit."
-Goth stripper Maria, once she's learned how to control the undead and decides to get revenge upon her former colleagues for no adequately explained reason.

Based on the manga series KYONYU DRAGON, this flick is another in the ongoing wave of intentionally over-the-top satirical horror/exploitation flicks to make their way to the Japanese screen, and among that lot it's rather a minor entry.

WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

Given an admittedly great/stupid title for its Western release, the film relates the adventures of five down-on-their-luck dancers who toil at a rinky-dink strip joint in a desolate town in the middle of nowhere. There's the recently-returned-from-Mexico sombreroed/western-themed main heroine Lena Jodo (played by adult film star "Aoi Sola," whose nom de porn translates as "Blue Sky"), morose ex-con Ginko, Goth girl Maria, Neneh, an aging dancer who reads tarot cards and is close to retiring to Tokyo to run a noodle shop, and money-hungry Vietnamese chick Darna, who's working to support her impoverished brothers and sisters, and during the film's first half hour we get to know them and see them get continually screwed over by their shady boss.

Our heroines: (L-R) ex-con Ginko, Goth girl Maria (with the unnatural red hair), cowgirl Lena, soon-to-be-retired Neneh, and money-grubbing Darna (kneeling in front).

They're all fun and interesting to varying degrees, but one does not approach a film entitled BIG TITS ZOMBIE in search of a look into the crapsack lives of exploited strippers, so just as the film passes the half hour mark, the girls discover their dressing room houses a concealed door that leads into the basement of the abandoned house across the street, a place where the previous owner mysteriously committed suicide. Upon entering the basement, the girls find the dead man's creepy inner sanctum filled with arcane artifacts and an impressive collection of rare occult books, identified as such by the Goth chick (natch), who grabs an authentic copy of the Book of the Dead and of course reads aloud from it. The results are not immediate but when the spell takes effect, all hell literally breaks loose and in no time the nation is overrun by the undead from many periods of history, all of whom have escaped from the conveniently-located Well of Souls in the basement. From there it's a cavalcade of re-animated and aggressive sushi, the requisite zombie cannibalism, weaponized wasabi paste, an interesting attempted variant on the old tentacle-rape standby, beheadings, disembowelings, two of our heroines taking on a horde of zombies while wielding a samurai sword and a chainsaw and eventually ending up topless as their twins are rendered a deep shade of red as they are showered by geysers of arterial spray, and the unforgettable sight of the geisha-costumed and newly-zombified Neheh's pussy mutating into something resembling a lamprey's maw that spews fire with range and dispersal equivalent to that of a standard military flamethrower (by far the film's highlight).

Lena takes on all comers with her handy McCullough.

Ginko and Lena, mere moments before their twins are reddened by copious arterial spray.

All of this madness is achieved in a short running time of seventy-three minutes, so it never really gets boring (though the first half hour is definitely slow going), but with a title like BIG TITS ZOMBIE, the film contains far less nudity than one would rightly expect, and the two pairs of dairies on display — specifically Lena's and Ginko's — range from about Japanese-standard proportions to around a C-cup, so we're talking appealing, but not "big" like the title promises. (Well, not by U.S. standards, anyway.) And while the gore is plentiful when it comes, it's definitely a comparatively short blast and the movie is over well before the viewer expects it to be, so there's a profound sense of getting ripped off.

I've certainly seen far worse zombie films, but I've also seen far better in both the serious vein and the zom-com variety, so this flick is only recommended for zombie completists, those who are looking for a short diversion with gore 'n' (brief) tits, and desperate adolescent boys. However, the flamethrower pussy has to be seen to be disbelieved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 25: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE UNRATED (2010)

NOTE: This is an oldie from the archive but I figured the remake deserved as much attention as the original, so...

When it was announced there would be a remake of the Mier Zarchi's infamous 1978 rape/revenge grindhouse classic — which, for better or worse, it definitely qualifies as — the first thing to come to my mind was "Why?!!?" There was little that could be done to top the original in terms of depicting the very personal horrors of a backwoods gang rape and the vengeance it spurs other than to shoot it with a decent budget, quality camerawork/cinematography, and better performances from the cast, so what was the point? I know that practically every film under the sun has been remade or is in the works for such treatment, but again I ask, why remake a film that's a veritable Chernobyl of negative energy? The only ready answer that I had before seeing it was that the filmmaker's sought to cash in on the name recognition of the original, but there's considerably more going on here than I initially assumed. I wrote on the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE a few years back and I ask you to go here to read it. And before we proceed any further, be advised: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

Southern anti-hospitality at its very worst.

The basic story is the same as the original: Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler), a writer from The Big City, rents a place in the backwoods — apparently Upstate New York in the original, Louisiana this time around — runs afoul of some incredibly vile lowlifes, gets agonizingly gang raped by said lowlifes, survives her ordeal and unleashes gruesome vengeance against her assailants. This time, however, the quality of the filmmaking is very far removed from the rather Paleolithic (though well-intentioned) results displayed in the 1978 version. The remake is quite obviously the work of real cinematic craftsmen and displays a level of polish and style totally absent in Zarchi’s dire classic, which makes the shattering events depicted in it more agreeable to sit through. (While any depiction of gang rape is going to be hard to sit through simply by default, the original’s bargain basement qualities imbued it with an unwashed and squalid look and tone that at times felt to me like some scabrous hobo was forcibly shoving his dirtiest, most callused finger straight down my throat.) The visual style is somehow lush in presenting the stark isolation of the story’s Louisiana backwoods setting, and the desolation helps to plant the viewer firmly into its lonely reality.

And speaking of reality, there were several elements in the original that would not have allowed for willing suspension of disbelief in the 2000’s, and they are addressed quite deftly. We currently live in an age of cheap and very conveniently portable mass communication technology, which simply did not exist back in 1978, so our heroine would be equipped with a cell phone that would allow her to call for help. Or rather that would be the case if she were not seen accidentally dropping her cell phone into her cottage’s toilet early in the film. Also, if a crime of the kind that Jennifer endures and survives after being pretty much presumed dead (despite the considerable efforts of her filthy assailants) occurred in this manner, today there would be any number of ways for law enforcement officers to bring Jennifer’s violators to justice (if justice could truly be provided by our justice system in the wake of the severity of the acts perpetrated), with DNA evidence matching immediately springing to mind. Thus it was necessary to add a fifth rapist to the scenario, namely the unspeakable Sheriff Storch (played with horrifically creepy gusto by Welsh actor Andrew Howard).

Andrew Howard as the vile Sheriff Storch.

Storch is the only police officer shown, and the area he allegedly polices is so remote that perhaps only one lawman is all it really requires. Too bad that despite him being seen to be a loving husband and father when not on duty, he’s worse than any criminal he’s likely to encounter because of his association with the pack of rapists, guys it’s made clear that he’s been friends with since they were kids, and his ability to inflict such grievous harm on an outsider reveals a sadistic sociopath who is allowed to wield lethal power by law. And by virtue of his training in the enforcement of said law, he knows all about how to cover up all trace of the crimes he and his pals commit, which makes him vital to them getting away with all of it.

And while we’re discussing rapist scum, it should be noted that the gang of redneck louts who plot the violation and (failed) murder of Jennifer includes a woman-hating Alpha male leader, a fairly nondescript follower, an overweight wielder of a video camera who fancies himself a budding cinematographer and voyeuristically captures the entire gang rape on tape, and a mentally handicapped repairman, whose virginal status is used by the Alpha male leader as an excuse to rape the city gal outsider. These guys are given a lot more in the way of developed personality than the louts found in the 1978 version, and that makes them that much more interesting and vile. The fiends in the original have little you can say about them as individuals other than that they are personification of the worst of male urges, in essence interchangeable ambulatory penises that utter dialogue. In the remake’s case we are afforded peeks into the quirks of the men as individuals and by allowing us to get to know what they’re like, an aspect that grants them an understandable (though totally evil and loathsome) humanity, it is that knowing of them as something other than largely undefined cardboard cutouts that makes us hate them all the more. Especially Sheriff Storch, whose vicious misogyny and behavior are fascinatingly contrasted against what we see of his home life. He’s a self-proclaimed god-fearing churchgoer with a loving wife who’s about eight months pregnant and looks for all the world like a fertility goddess transplanted to the early twenty-first century, and he’s also got a sweet daughter of maybe nine years old whom he clearly dotes upon. The man is a completely different person as a husband and father, and is presumably likewise as a citizen and lawman, but when in a position to commit a great evil in support of his friends and joining in on their animalistic “fun,” he’s revealed as a law-breaking predator who preys upon the weak and isolated. If Jennifer went missing in his podunk little town, it’s apparent that her disappearance would be noted by few, and the only locals who knew she was there are the sheriff, the gang of rapists, and the sweet old guy who rents her the cottage (the great Tracy Walter), so doing whatever the hell he and his buddies want to with Jennifer is as simple as pie to get away with, especially since disposing of her body would only require chucking her used and abused corpse into the alligator-infested river. Jennifer’s is the worst imaginable position to be in, and these filthy bastards know it and take full advantage of it, giving vent to their pent-up hatred of women and taking a joyous glee in doing so.

But, as was the case in the original, Jennifer does not take her assault like the whimpering victim the rapists anticipated, and when she throws herself off a bridge and into the aforementioned alligator-infested river rather than be outright blasted to kingdom come by the sheriff’s pump-action shotgun, she survives, holes up in a deserted shack for a month and lives on whatever she can catch (including rats) while she uses her writer’s imagination to plot appropriately poetic vengeance that would have done the writers of the classic E.C. horror comics proud. This time around the script wisely does away with the idea of a woman who was so brutally abused luring her attackers to their doom by fucking them. It's not just her body that's been raped by these scum; Jennifer's basic humanity has been utterly taken from her, and as a result she is reborn as what is for all intents and purposes a monster. It’s a tragic rebirth as a fury every bit as savage and implacable as the variety found in classical Greek mythology. Each and every one of the rapists gets his in a very big way and, according to the director and producer’s commentary, their just desserts were so nasty that some of the audiences were so outraged by the severity of the retribution that they stated they began to feel sorry for the rapists. That was not the case with me as a viewer because of my simple belief in the mantra of “If you abuse with the Johnson, you lose the Johnson,” or some other form or punishment involving some form of medieval justice, and I found what they received to be gruesomely satisfying in every way.

So the bottom line on what at first seemed an unnecessary remake of a cruel ‘70’s exploitationer teeming with ultra-sadistic and seemingly pointless misogyny is that the 2010 I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is one very nasty and visceral motherfucker that I’m extremely shocked to have enjoyed. Yes, I enjoyed it, but then again I’m a fan of what I call “the cinema of vengeance,” and there are few examples in the genre as strong as this in every aspect. It’s easily the best of the current remake/re-imagining wave, and I highly recommend it to any and all who have the stones to handle it. And whatever you do, make sure to watch it with the director’s commentary after seeing it for the first time. Very interesting stuff.