Sarah Butler returns to the franchise with Vengeance Is Mine.
|"Want to play a game?!"|
The original I Spit On Your Grave is a sickening exploration into acts of rape, violence towards women, and the notion of female empowerment when the victim seeks vengeance for those crimes. It's been argued that the first movie was an originator in this sub-genre and it still holds the same brutal values as when it was first released. A few years back we got a remake that was a mirror image updated to modern times with the stunning Sarah Butler taking over the lead as Jennifer Hills, rape victim and destroyer of redneck violators. Fans such as myself were overjoyed with a remake that didn't change the story but gave it a new, more modern edge, while still sticking to the formula that worked so well back in 1978. The 2010 do-over didn't hesitate in its throwback exploitation style and maintained an ultra-violent tone that felt real and painfully genuine.
In 2013, we were handed a sequel that was nearly as good. It introduced a new lead character and switched the story just enough to make it interesting. Part two was hardcore, semi-intelligent, and featured a warning about the nature of men and the dangers of trusting them. This Halloween season, a new director gives us this third chapter that looks and feels like a rush job. With director Steven R. Monroe departing the franchise, Vengeance Is Mine is nowhere near as appealing and does nothing to advance the character of Jennifer Hills into her next obligatory step towards defeating rapists. R.D. Braunstein's part three tries to be too smart by borrowing ideas from other far better movies. His version of Jennifer is not the one we last saw in the remake. This Jennifer is unjustly bitchy, mentally unfocused, and altogether a caricature of what Braunstein is ultimately going for. For a character that showed such strong traits and so much focus five years ago, this new version of Ms. Hills is too overstated, too emotionally charged, and much too comfortable with hurting people that have nothing to do with the attacks that changed her.
Vengeance Is Mine is like a perfect specimen of why most people abandon hope on sequels. Like most other, lower budget horror retreads, quality suffers while the studios try to cash in on something they know we'll watch. With more planning, a better script, and some attention paid to not letting Jennifer become just another victim looking for unqualified bloodshed, this could have been a smart continuation with sleeker, more detailed attention on developing her character even more. Yes, she's psychologically destroyed. And yes, she has a reason to be mad at men. But the way they play this feels cheap, underdeveloped, and plays out like a female version of Dexter. Throwing in dream sequences and new revelations about a character we already know and love just adds more fuel to the fire.
|"Did you just say you don't like|
my red dress?!!! How about
I cut your %$#@ off?"
Honestly, I wanted to love this movie. These are one of my horrific guilty pleasures. Monroe's films have been on constant repeat for me since their release. Vengeance Is Mine is just another sequel that doesn't live up to the quality of its predecessors. The very few kills in this are creative and spectacularly gross, but its not enough to save our beloved Jennifer and the way Daniel Gilboy alters her character arc. Sadly, I Spit On Your Grave 3 - Vengeance Is Mine should have been another story about a victim taking control or should have been rewritten to not make Jennifer Hills look like a total psycho. That's not what these movies are about and Braunstein should have known better.
For some reason, sexualizing a former rape victim through the use of schoolgirl outfits and tight red dresses feels awkward and strangely backwards. But that's just me. I know. It's just a movie. But the original, the remake and the sequel all exist in an extreme world of realism. Vengeance Is Mine feels like a poorly conceived fantasy.
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