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“I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3: VENGEANCE IS MINE” (Film Review)

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It’s an odd thing to consider that one of the most notoriously brutal films of all time- Meir Zarchi’s 1978 rape revenge film I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE- would spawn a largely direct-to-video horror franchise almost 40 years after the fact. Yet with a third installment subtitled VENGEANCE IS MINE, that’s exactly what has happened with the property, even going so far as to being a direct sequel to the 2010 remake rather than the in-name-only sequel before it. However, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3: VENGEANCE IS MINE is a decidedly strange affair from start to finish, attempting to be a female empowerment piece only to fall into strangely unfocused territory as to become a commentary on the nature of revenge.

For those unfamiliar, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3: VENGEANCE IS MINE follows Jennifer Hills years after her experiences from I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010), irreparably damaged mentally inspiring violent hallucinations and emotional hostility. However, she finds a sense of stability and kinship among a sexual assault survivors group, even though her closest friend offers her the familiar taste of radical revenge. However, when tragedy strikes again, Jennifer takes it upon herself to avenge those who the law cannot.

While the film is undoubtedly an improvement over the impossibly bleak and sickeningly gruesome second SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE film, the film’s restraint is actually what makes the movie so out-of-place; in fact, this film may be the first rape-revenge film to feature neither on-screen rape or straightforward revenge, not that it’s missed. If anything, this I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE would be more fitting as a DEATH WISH reboot, with Sarah Butler’s character using rape trauma meetings to fuel her vigilante activities. And even though Butler’s retaliation against the rapists are brutal, they don’t quite pack the extreme punch or visceral karma as the films before them, instead resorting to predictable off-color tactics as well as diving into a much more morally reprehensible place by the baffling third act.

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Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3 is the fact that this film actually gives a shit to add a sense of character to the proceedings. Sarah Butler’s Jennifer Hills barely registered as a three-dimensional character in the reboot, so to see her actually develop and befriend others in the first half of VENGEANCE IS MINE is a pleasant surprise. However, by the time Hills is taunting the police and becoming increasingly sadistic, the film sadly turns its back on any and all character development to instead become heavyhanded and keep an ending open for further installments.

Technically speaking, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3: VENGEANCE IS MINE is an improvement over its predecessors, with even the visual style packing more life and less bleakness than the previous films. While the script from Daniel Gilboy is entirely too on-the-nose and completely falls apart by the anti-climactic ending, R. D. Braunstein provides adequate direction to turn in well-enough performances across the board. And on a purely technical level, the cinematography, editing and special FX are all effective enough to work in the film’s favor, even if the film as a whole is a disappointment.

Much like the other I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE films, VENGEANCE IS MINE is made for a very specific audience of horror hounds, yet in a way, almost feels like an island away from the other films in the series. VENGEANCE IS MINE is too tame in its content and sociopolitical themes to appeal to those who appreciate the nasty streak of the films that came before it, but still falls into a subgenre that by nature will not appeal to a majority of fright fans. So while VENGEANCE IS MINE might be the most accessible of the franchise, and certainly the best showcase for Sarah Butler’s talents in that role, the film is still too weak and misguided to really elevate the material beyond its tasteless beginnings.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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