What's shown in the trailer for the original I Spit On Your Grave, which you can see here, is an interesting contrast to the new trailer. In both stories, writer Jennifer Hall (Camille Keaton, Buster's granddaughter) comes to the country to work on her book but instead finds herself raped brutally and repeatedly by a group of local men. But in the original trailer, the emphasis is on how Hall lures the men to their violent deaths by pretending she really is interested in them, only to strike them at their most vulnerable. Like, say, in the bathtub. It toes the line of softcore titillation -- that is, until you see she's got a knife in her hand.
The remake doesn't come out until October, so this new trailer is just the first of many to come and will probably get more explicit as the release date nears, but the trailer places this more squarely in the torture porn camp, from the freeze frames to the blood splattered title cards warning us of an unnamed crime that's so brutal that "the only justice is revenge." And the tagline, "It's date night," which Hall (Sarah Butler) utters at the end of the trailer, indicates she uses the same means to get her attackers to let their guards down just long enough for her to attack.
While I don't think that adults should be coddled and protected from disturbing films or images, I do think that they should be able to make informed choices about what they're going to see. Unfortunately, they often don't, and I have a sneaking suspicion that many people will see the poster and the trailer and think it looks like another Hostel or Saw rip-off and not realize they're about to walk into a film that shows a brutal, graphic rape scene and not just more squished eyeballs or homicidal puppets.
For rape/revenge movies like Last House and Grave, the catalyst for the narrative is rape. People should know that going in, and by should, I mean both that if they even bother to know anything about a movie they're going to see, they'll at least know that. And I also mean that they really should know that's what they're walking into. I hesitate to say that there should be trigger warnings for assault survivors, because I can't imagine a Venn diagram that has torture porn fans and sexual assault survivors overlapping somehow. And I hesitate to say that it's the duty of the marketers to make that clear. Part of me thinks that if you don't do your due diligence when it comes to the sort of media you consume, well, tough. But the more empathetic part of me worries about the one or two people who don't mind watching extreme violence but absolutely draw the line at sexual assault in movies will end up having nightmares or worse for weeks to come.
I think the most disturbing aspect of seeing graphic rape scenes in a film is the potential audience reaction. Ebert's original review of I Spit On Your Grave describes an audience that seemed to be enjoying the rape scenes, sometimes talking aloud or even laughing. When I went to see The Last House on the Left with a friend last year, I definitely was worried that something similar would happen and I would flip my sh*t and end up getting into an altercation. (Luckily, it was a weeknight and not a packed crowd, and whatever the other moviegoers thought, they at least kept it to themselves.)
For an excellent and insightful look at why I Spit On Your Grave controversies miss the mark, check out Alison Nastasi's article.
Take a look at the trailer and let me know if you plan to see the remake, and if so, why? And do you think that everyday movie-goers will go into the theater knowing what they're in for based on the trailer?
By the way, "Day of the Woman" (aka opening day) is October 8th, 2010. So, you know, maybe we can make it "a movie event for women." But for my money, I'll take Ms. 45 any day of the week.