El Jefe de Santo, otherwise known as Jeff, has been addicted to the genre of horror for, well, nearly all his life. It all began with John Carpenter's "Halloween" and since then has spiraled into a life-long fascination with blood, guts and things that go bump in the night. He reveres Savini, Argento, H.G. Lewis, Craven, Carpenter, Miike, Bava, and Fulci. He is a genre-nerd to the highest degree and finds the sight of intestines to be absolutely delightful!He also enjoys, aside from making his foes quake with fear in the squared circle, reviewing movies!
This will not be the usual sort of review that you, my adoring fans, are used to reading every week. I was a little behind in terms of releases in the genre as of late so I was late in coming to I Spit On Your Grave and caught a midnight showing of Scre4m ("Scream 4"). This will be not just one but TWO reviews in one post! Now if that isn't a enziguri kick to your brains I don't know what is. The following, for your consideration, are the reviews of the aforementioned films.
In Theaters: Apr. 15, 2011
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Running time: 1 hr. 50 min.
I'm one of those guys that adores slasher flicks. There are many types of horror movies out there within the genre. There are torture porn romps, gorefests, supernatural thrillers, classic haunted house stories, demonic possession, exploitation grindhouse and, honestly, the list goes one. The slasher, though, has always been one of my absolute faves. My love began with the near perfect Halloween by John Carpenter. Michael Meyers was the name of evil as far as I was concerned. Jason came soon after. Freddy not long after that.
There have been countless films that involved teenagers getting stabbed, axed, hooked or otherwise eviscerated for my entertainment. The tropes are all there, the formula plain as day. There are few, if any, that help to serve as a refreshing reminder of what made the genre so impactful as it was in the early 80's. Wes Craven's first entry in the Scream franchise did just that, though.
Kevin Williamson's tight scripting and Wes Craven's expert direction made for a genre redefining film that was not only heavy on references and humor but delivered in the kill department and scares. I enjoyed the HELL out of the first two Scream movies while the third was, well, a bit lacking. I was, apprehensive, coming into this latest installment. Eleven years have passed and since then Wes hasn't exactly had the best output in terms of quality. Movies such as My Soul to Take and Cursed weren't exactly good films (Red Eye was quite good).
I was, thankfully, relieved once I got into the packed theater to witness the revitalization of not only a franchise but of an entire part of the horror genre. This was a fantastic film that made me laugh, cringe and overall entertained me thoroughly.
We know the score here. This is a Scream movie so there are going to plenty of in-jokes and references to horror movie conventions. The humor will be paired with the tense moments of the chase and with, ultimately, somebody getting stabbed. All that said the movie still managed to feel fresh and, frankly, made me feel as I did when I saw Scream the first time in the summer of 1996. This is a film the revels in the fact that its characters think they are one step ahead due to their having watched so many horror movies but ultimately make the same bone-headed mistakes.
The body count in this installment is high. Really high. I found myself surprised at some of the turns the plot took, and ultimately the twist on the twist worked really well. This movie definitely benefited from the reuniting of Williamson and Craven here. There were a few moments, here and there, where it felt like the dialogue drifted into that territory of middle-aged people trying to sound like young people as far as scripting goes, but overall I was pleased with the results.
This is a teenage slasher film from the 90's that is nostalgic and at the same time very aware of this new age of social media we live in. The opening 20 minutes are just brilliant, really, and set the tone for the rest of the film that, while at times suffers from some pacing issues, moves at a brisk clip. I was also surprised at just how bloody this one got. The body count being high aside there was one scene that really struck me as nearly overdone. A room just splattered with blood and a teen lying on the bed, guts hanging out. It caught me off guard much as some of the other deaths did. Being stabbed in the face is no fun, kids. Ask Anthony Anderson about that.
My own personal bias towards the slasher genre and horror in general, which usually doesn't get a fair shake because of what it is, helps to influence this review just a bit. This was not only a hilarious movie but also served up another visceral violence that I found myself exiting the theater with a big smile on my face. This is what horror can and should be. Thank you, Wes. You didn't let me down.
I Spit On Your Grave
Released: October 8, 2010 (Theatrical)/Feb 8, 2011(DVD)
Directed by: Steven Monroe
Written by: Jeffrey Reddick and Meir Zarchi
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min
There are few genres that spawn such blind hatred and rage as exploitation cinema. Critics have lambasted the genre as a whole as being alltogether unnecessary and vile. There are films, certainly, that really just didn't need to be made. One might argue that something like "Cannibal Holocaust" definitely didn't need to be put to celluloid but it was!
The 1979 grindhouse classic of Day of the Woman otherwise known as I Spit On Your Grave was one of the first genre films I came to know once I started exploring this sub-genre of cinema. I remember vividly just how badly much of it was shot, how badly the sound was recorded. The dialogue, in parts, was tinny and even inaudible. The remake is, thankfully, a technically proficient movie that looks much better and definitely sounds better than its predecessor.
Is it, however, better? The problem in reviewing a movie like this is that there will be those that view this movie as absolute trite garbage that is unnecessary. Some will view it as just another torture porn flick. Others view it as a film that, perhaps, doesn't actually stretch the limits of what we've seen before. There definitely have been worse depictions of violence towards women on film. The original, at times, was disturbing because of just how long some of these scenes of bruality towardw the female lead were. It followed a very strict rape, beat, run away and then rinse repeat sort of formula.
I was pleased to see that with this updated version that rape was not eroticised at all. There is nothing appealing about what happened to Jennifer Hills. She was accosted, savaged, violated and left naked in the mud while in a daze. The slow build of tension was well done here and Steven Monroe should be commended for handling this sort of subject as well as he did. The performances, throughout, are much stronger than anything we saw in the original.
The scenes of vengeance that mark the second half of the film paled in comparison to just how damned uncomfortable it made me to watch the first half. The leadup to the actual brutal acts committed to the young novelist in the movie are genuinely disturbing, to me at least. The scene involving the pistol and our heroine's mouth was, well, rough.
The kills themselves range from rather gross to not as bad. They are creative and I definitely preferred that the lead-in to them didn't involve the vengeance-seeking spitfire trying to seduce them first. She did what she had to with a club, tire iron or baseball bat to knock 'em out and get them set up. The last bit involving the sherriff was definitely well done and the ending was just perfect.
This is exploitation cinema in the new age. This is everything that people groaned about whenever Eli Roth released the Hostel films. This was rough at times, there is no doubt, but well worth a look if you're willing. You have to be willing lest you find yourself feeling a bit sick.
Do you disagree? Do you feel that El Jefe de Santo was too generous? PERHAPS HE WILL NOT BE SO GENEROUS IN THE RING, BROTHER! If you feel like challenging the masked wonder to a trivia competition/hurricanrana-off then leave a comment, send an email to Jeff@Zeitgeeks.com or via Twitter (@JeffPannellZG). Until next time..