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i spit on your remake


not everyone is creative. there are lots of ways in which people can get satisfaction from their lives- family, volunteer work, hell, even sports give people a sense of belonging and fulfillment. what i can't help but wonder is, given the many career options open to them, why do people who are so singularly uncreative keep ending up in the film industry? surely they could find better ways to apply their skills, but no, instead we are forced to bear the constant onslaught of genre films, where the rules become so restrictive that it is almost impossible to tell one film from the other, or, and this is obviously where i'm going with this post, the endless, repetitive remaking of previous films, which removes any pretense of originality from the equation.

and nowhere is that more evident than in the horror genre. witness the sad onslaught of remakes that have been paraded through theatres (and ushered quickly onto dvd to recoup their considerable costs) in recent years. director john carpenter, who would have dreamed of budgets half the size of those lavished on the people sloppily remaking his films in the last decade, would be rolling in his grave, were he not still very much alive and making films that garner less attention than the glitzy attempts to remake Halloween, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13 (itself a form of remake). freddy and jason have been resurrected from the dead so that they could be resurrected from the dead again in the form of sequels to a remake of films that spawned numerous sequels.

but nowhere has this desperation to capitalise on the impact of these films, their notoriety and their influence more evident than in the saddest remake attempt ever greenlit: i spit on your grave.

this film was derided as a sado-masochistic male porn fantasy when it came out in the late 70s, but is generally recognised now as a twisted masterpiece of feminism. (this becomes particularly obvious in light of the film's original title "day of the woman".)

all of these films are being remade for one reason and one reason only: somewhere along the line, a studio executive believed that it was possible to bring the story the commercial success it never had on its original release (even though carpenter's films were generally successful, the theatrical success pales in comparison to their subsequent cultural deification) and that they can further increase financial returns by bringing the story to a new generation.

this logic is flawed on both points. first of all, the comparative financial success of films like Halloween is based purely on a ratio of gross income to budget. the film looks a lot less financially successful if you assume it was made with a budget of nearly $20M. the idea that somehow the ratio holds- if the original made close to 20x its budget of $250K, then with a budget of $20M, it should gross $400M, is ridiculous. (and anyone who can't see that should probably be joining the ranks of the unemployed by the time you've finished reading this post.)

the second point is more complex. i don't believe for a second that major studios invest in a film in the hope that it will become a cult favourite. after all, a financial failure is a financial failure and it doesn't look good on the books no matter what. but the fact is, if you think that you can parlay a moderate critical success into a hugely successful franchise that will spawn not only its own sequels, but a farm of "me too" imitators, then there is something to be gained. and why not take a chance on a formula that's tried and true with a previous generation? after all, if they liked it, why wouldn't kids and young adults of the same age group like it now?

have these people been dropped on their collective head?

let's ignore, for a moment, that such people can just go download the originals whenever they want. let's ignore the fact that films like saw, hostel, martyrs and human centipede have already pushed the envelope of fear and violence so far that these old films seem like family television viewing. does no one at these studios realise that films are always, inescapably, a product of the time and culture in which they're produced?

consider the underlying sameness of the classic 80s slasher movie: a group of young people, representative of the present (troubled or rebellious teens) and the future, are faced with a supernaturally powerful enemy- violent, evil, inexplicable and incapable of reason. the 'impure'- those who engage in sex, drugs or other forms of debauchery- are the first to go, whereas those who remain pure and true, more vigilant and more determined than their often flawed parents (probably former hippies anyway), are finally able to triumph (although these films often hint that the evil they have fought is not defeated but merely deterred). the story is clearly routed in the cold war mentality of the early 80s. there are films that are a lot less subtle about the message, films that feature actual stories of american soldiers fighting against sadistic soviet zombies, but the underlying message is the same. ultimately, what stands out about the villains of these stories is their inhumanity- they may have been human (american-like) at one point, but they have divested themselves of the vestiges of this in their single-minded pursuit of ultimately nihilistic violence.

(by comparison, if we look at films that are the product of the current era, we see a different sort of message. these films, particularly the entirely modern 'torture porn' movement, indulge a fascination not with an enemy who seeks to obliterate and strike down, but one who luxuriates in the joys of sadism and prolonged pain. in other words, one whose ultimate thrill comes not from violent destruction and brutish dominance, but from causing their victims the greatest amount of fear- from terrorising them.)

what the producers (and likely anyone else involved in the remake) of 'i spit on your grave' fail to realise is that, taken out of the cultural context of the 70s, the story is at best a sort of gruesome satire. nestled within its time, the era (pun forthcoming) of the equal rights amendment, the time when it briefly looked like the awakened feminist consciousness of the late 60s would somehow bear fruit in the form of a a truly egalitarian society (it's true- drugs were stronger back then), the film is meaningless. once one factors in the reagan-era backlash against anything even vaguely reminiscent of feminism, followed by the phenomenally successful red herring of "political correctness" have intervened, it's difficult to see what the film, in many ways a violent metaphor for that rising feminist consciousness and a warning to those backward types who would resist it, is all about. nowadays, it can only be viewed as 'deliverance' with a female lead.

i'm unlikely to ever see the remake of 'i spit on your grave'. i honestly expect that it will be gone from theatres before i've even finished thinking about whether or not i want to see it. but that doesn't stop me from thinking about it and what i'm thinking is that when studios are hiring people who will decide which projects get the go-ahead and which don't, they might want to be a little less concerned about their future employees' knowledge of marketing and a little more concerned about their knowledge of history.

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