I just saw the free screening. I'm glad I didn't pay to see it. Yes, it's that bad. It is utterly pointless, horridly acted trash, a good definition of pornography.
Now I know we don't go into a film called I Spit On Your Grave expecting Oscar worthy performances or brilliant dialogue, but we also don't go into such a movie expecting to yawn, which is what I did at least a couple of times. I saw the original back in 1978 at a Drive-In. Despite how controversial it was and how Roger Ebert ripped on it, I always thought of it as a really well made motion picture. The acting is decent, the atmosphere is creepy and the minimalist plot is well written. The original film engages because we believe the characters are human and we believe something this horrible could actually happen. This is not the case with the remake.
There are some major flaws that make this one too implausible to enjoy. Discussing the flaws of a movie with a plot that goes no farther than "men rape woman / woman kills men" cannot be done without including spoilers, so if you really care that much about the details of the rape and murders, stop reading this review.
First of all, the men in this movie are so immoral and have such a lack of conscience that they can't be related to whatsoever. In the original, Jennifer comes back to actually seduce the men before she murders them, and this is very telling about the men's characters. The fact that she can seduce them shows us how utterly screwed up they are, that they have convinced themselves Jennifer actually got some pleasure out of her rape and even wants some more. This made them somewhat complex characters, perhaps victims of a macho society, which allowed us to feel for them on some small level, making the revenge that is enacted upon them that much more brutal. However, in this crappy remake, the rapists are absolutely one dimensionally evil, making them pretty much inhuman objects and causing the retribution against them to be highly unsatisfying. Plus, in this remake, a fifth rapist has been added to the plotthe county sheriff no less. A sheriff with a wife and young daughter joins in on the sadistic torture of a young woman and we are offered no motivation for this, other than of course he's a redneck, so he must like to participate in forced anal sex, a standard set by the movie Deliverance. And all of this takes place as if it is daily routine, with no regrets or remorse. The character of the sheriff is so unbelievable that it subtracts from the film as a whole.
Another big flaw is the Jennifer character herself. In the original movie, she goes back to the city, recovers (an important aspect because then the revenge she seeks is much more premeditated), becomes empowered and returns to the scene of the crime to murder the villains. She arises as a hero because we get the sense that what she is doing is not merely personal revenge, but something that is necessary in order to keep something like that from happening to someone else, like putting a rabid dog down. But in the remake, we are suppose to believe that Jennifer dives into some water, magically disappears (was she a swimming champ?), is not seen for a month (during which she is supposedly living in an abandoned shack eating rats and snakes I suppose), and then suddenly comes out of the woods to enact a very intricate series of torturous murders. And she doesn't seduce her rapist into the bathtub to cut off the offending member, she relies on the old Hollywood cliche of whacking him over the head with a tire iron so that he conveniently passes out for an hour without a struggle, sort of like a cartoon character does, as this frail women who was beaten and raped and has been living in the woods for a month somehow drags him away and props him up into a contraption straight out of Saw part whatever. All of this is so unbelievable that by the time the brutality begins we don't really care. It is very hard to get any satisfaction out of a revenge film when it isn't taking place in the real world.
And about the revenge murders. They are way too literal. The guy obsessed with her teeth gets his teeth pulled out. The guy with the video camera gets his eyes plucked out. The guy who gives us the gratuitous anal sex scene gets a shotgun shoved up you know where. This Jennifer hasn't recovered. She's not empowered. She's become her assailants. Her revenge is not for the protection of the world; it's for the ego of the screenwriter. There is nothing shocking about the murders because we don't care about the characters and we don't believe Jennifer could pull them off to begin with.
In the absence of good acting, believable plot and character development, what we are left with is about two hours of brutal rape and torture. That's not filmmaking. That's just lazy. That's just trash. As audiences become more and more desensitized to this kind of trash, where is the future of horror films headed? Rape in 3D? After the long drawn out rape scene, the woman sitting next to me got up and left the theater. For a moment, I thought it was because she was so shocked by what she had just witnessed, but in a few minutes she returned with an order of nachos. You just have to wonder.
If you want to see a really creepy, well-acted movie about a young woman exacting revenge on a sexual deviant, watch Hard Candy, an extremely well written and believable film. I Spit On Your Grave (Unrated) is pure garbage compared to that.