Though knee-jerk anti-remakism is not one of the most intellectually sound positions one can hold, it's still the case that attempting to remake a film is a dangerous thing, and not to be done lightly. The classic argument is that you should only remake a film with a good premise that didn't work very well the first time; but there have been remakes of true classics that found some way to put an original spin on material that didn't look like it could be improved very much (the 1937 and 1954 A Star Is Born films are an especially good example). So there is, broadly speaking, no outright reason why a good premise that was done well can't be attempted for a second time.

That said, certain movies are so specific in their original contexts that the idea of a remake is much, much worse than it might otherwise be. This brings me to 1978's Day of the Woman, far better known under its later re-release title I Spit on Your Grave. Iconic largely because of how controversial it was and remains, the film is such a particular example of exploitation in the late '70s, that most of what made it effective then simply cannot be captured by a remake (and by all means, I understand that I'm begging the question: according to a great many people, Day of the Woman never should have been made in the first place, which makes the notion of remaking it a wicked and foolish act on the face of it). Yet here we are with I Spit on Your Grave, 2010 Edition, and while it indeed finds the filmmakers with some very solid notions about bringing the material in line with the tastes of a contemporary audience, in doing so it sacrifices much of what lent Day of the Woman most of its potency. Love it or despise its rotten core, the original is either way a truly important piece of exploitation history; the remake is above all else a particularly grim torture porno, coming at least a couple of years after the torture cycle seems mostly to have spent itself.

In most essentials, the scenario is identical: Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) has traveled deep into the country (Louisiana, here) to work on her new novel. There she attracts the unwanted attention of three sleazy gas station attendants, Johnny (Jeff Branson), Andy (Rodney Eastman), and Stanley (Daniel Franzese). A little bit later she meets their mentally slow buddy/bullying victim Matthew (Chad Lindberg), who falls into puppy love when Jennifer throws a little kindness his way. In hardly any time, they've all broken into her remote cabin, and emotionally tormented her (this is where the plots start to divulge, but only a little). She runs out, and finds the local lawman, Sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard), who to nobody's surprise is friendly with the troglodytes she just escaped from, and he happily takes part when the four other men rape Jennifer into unconsciousness. He also is the only one who sees the sense in killing her, but she apparently saves him the trouble, jumping into gator-infest bayou water, and never coming back up; but we of course know that she's biding her time, getting her strength back, and planning the magnificently bloody revenge that she's going to wreak on her attackers.

I do not want to turn this into a whole "compare & contrast" between the two movies, but a few major differences need to be said, because they are important. 1) The 2010 film, compared to the 1978 film, has a much shorter and significantly less explicit rape scene. 2) The 2010 film spends much more time following the rapists after Jennifer goes missing than the original - and once she reappears, the film never re-adopts her POV. 3) The 2010 films details Jennifer's violent revenge on the rapists in far bloodier detail.

It's simple enough to see what has happened: the 1978 film was made in a particular epoch of grind house filmmaking, and (depending on your perspective) was consciously designed to implicate its presumed male audience into the exploitation and subsequent rape of Jennifer, punishing that audience, in effect, for the act of watching the movie; in 1978, rape-as-entertainment actually being something of a grind house staple. The 2010 film comes out when "edgy" horror means one and only one thing - super-violent, torture-based gore. The de-emphasis of the rape scene (which is still, in and of itself, horribly upsetting, and self-consciously unerotic; in fact, the addition of the very weird, very disturbing "psychological torture" sequence preceding the rape serves to make it even that much more self-consciously unerotic), the promotion of the rapists to "protagonists", in the sense that they are more present on camera than Jennifer is, and the tonal shift in Jennifer's own character: all of these put the film squarely in the tradition of so many Saw knock-offs.

It's the change in Jennifer that leaves the new film in the worst shape: she has become a fairly standard-issue gore movie villain as a result of her experiences, albeit one whom we're uniquely primed to cheer for. Shot and made-up to look as glowering and menacing as possible, and given a number of "taa-daa, I just chopped you balls off!" quips that would have suited Freddy Krueger during the low ebb of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Butler's Jennifer is nothing at all at the end but a killing machine. Presumably, the filmmakers (director Steven R. Monroe and writer Stuart Morse) were trying to make the same kind of statement about how emotionally broken Jennifer is after her ordeal that Day of the Woman made; except that Day of the Woman made it by actually showing us the break, because Day of the Woman did not inexplicably push Jennifer offscreen for 20 crucial minutes.

Alright, so it's a torture film. Effects-wise, it's a pretty good torture film, too, though it is certainly not as well-budgeted as some, and two of the biggest, baddest moments in the film come across looking fairly rubbery (in particular, the film drops the ball on even attempting to present a man's face after a shotgun shell has exploded out of it). But it is, beyond that, a terribly angry, mean-spirited movie: not in the manner of the first one, which was angry and was mean-spirited, and in both cases because the director wanted to drag us through the mud. No, I Spit on Your Grave 2010 is just sour and ugly, asking us to root for the violent deaths of terrible people but locking itself out of letting us identify with the woman doing the killing; and therefore it's just a celebration of violence qua violence, filmed with ugly directness by Neil Lisk (who died just before the film was released and to whom it has been dedicated). And even this is not so horrid as the pre-rape scene, which has an ickiness to its depiction of sexualised humiliation that would possibly have some of the same guttural impact of the first movie, if only the dialogue and acting weren't so poor. Both films are massively unpleasant to watch; the first because it comes from a hideous, howling dark place in the human soul, the second because it is crappy and gross. That's a kind of achievement, and I'll take it 100 times over the insulting "moralism" of the Saw franchise; but unfocused depravity is just no damn fun at all, and the grimy sickness displayed here just isn't as brutally potent as it was in this film's predecessor.