The Rape-Revenge genre is, by dint of it’s a troublesome subject matter, a type of movie not loved by mainstream audiences in search of a few horror scares and some supernatural thrills or an escape into action fantasy. It’s a much grimmer and grimier proposition, confront the audience with a harsher, far more real type of horror than the average programme filler.
Whether the vengence is enacted by the bruised and bloodied victim, as in both the remake and the original versions of I Spit on Your Grave or the superbly downbeat Thriller…A Cruel Picture, or enraged relatives and spouses whose minds are turned by the tortures that befall their nearest and dearest, the genre remains one that doesn’t offer the audience easy solutions.
Are they designed to titillate the male gaze?
When the woman turns on her assailants, do these films instantly spin through 180 degrees and become feminist tracts?
Gaspar Noe’s Irreversable turned the entire structure of the genres standard narrative on it’s head in an attempt to answer these questions. The film shows the brutal revenge of a man whose partner had been savaged by a seemingly untouchable gangster, then makes the audience endure the sexual attack in unrelenting, unswerving detail before the circumstances that lead to these two events are revealed. In doing so he offers the audience no get out. In the conventional narrative, the women’s revenge serves to let the audience off the hook. Regardless of what feelings are stirred by the rape scene, all is now well as the rapists have been dealt with in suitably ‘eye-for-an-eye’ style.
The new remake of I Spit on Your Grave sticks to the genre guidelines a little more exactly than the former film, but still moves the genre on with more realistic performances, a more professional production style and superior dialogue and acting. Does this lessen the impact of the drama. I don’t think so. If anything, the slicker look offers less distractions. There are no fluffed lines or wayward acting moments to lift you out of the moment, leaving you focused completely on the horrors unfolding on the screen.
Now, see where the new movie slots into the history of this much maligned cinematic genre with our Rape-Revenge Trailer Reel.
Ingmar Bergman sets a few genre rules in The Virgin Spring, as the wronged parents of a girl left raped and murdered find out that revenge doesn’t fill the void left by the loss of their loved one and there’s plenty of other examples to check out, from mainstream studio efforts such as Lipstick to really earthy Grindhouse efforts like Fight For Your Life.
I Spit On Your Grave (cert. 18)
will open at UK cinemas on
21st January 2010