30th Apr2019

‘I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Camille Keaton, Jamie Bernadette, Maria Olsen, Jim Tavaré, Jonathan Peacy, Jeremy Ferdman, Holgie Forrester, Roy Allen III, Alexandra Kenworthy, Terry Zarchi, Tammy Zarchi | Written and Directed by Mier Zarchi

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It’s not hard to underestimate how much of an impact the original I Spit on Your Grave film had on the genre – mainly thanks to the controversial way the film was marketed back in the late 70s/early 80s and its subsequent banning across several territories. Yet despite all the furore around the film, it never spawned a sequel – after all that was not de rigueur back then, especially with indie productions – but it did inspire the film Savage Vengeance, from cult director Donald Farmer: an unofficial sequel that starred actress Camille Keaton, under a pseudonym, playing yet another “Jennifer” without ever explicitly stating is was a follow-up to Zarchi’s original.

Mier Zarchi’s 1978 film also spawned a remake in 2010 which DID get a sequel, in fact it got two – one in 2013 and the final film in 2015… But the first film, the one that courted controversy and the one that was banned here in the UK until 2001, remained a singular, strong, and controversial example, of the rape/revenge genre. Until now.

Yes, forty years after 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave shocked the world with its story of a beautiful career woman assaulted and left for dead and her notorious revenge on those responsible, cinema’s most lethal lady of vengeance, Jennifer Hills, is back in I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu. Which sees now successful writer Jennifer Hills hurtling back to where it all began, to face the wrath of the families of those she murdered. Kidnapped along with her daughter Christy (Jamie Bernadette), it’s a tense game of hunt – or be hunted – against a ruthless gang of degenerates overseen by a violently unhinged matriarch Becky (Maria Olsen).

Reuniting original star Camille Keaton and original director Meir Zarchi, with Zarchi’s son (who also produced a documentary on the original movie) acting as producer, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu picks up decades after the first film, offering a myriad of flashbacks to the most controversial portions of the ’78 original before plunging the audience pretty much straight into the action – with the merest of introductions for Jennifer Hills: an re-introduction which updates her story wonderfully, turning her from victim into counsellor and therapist, embracing her past yet moving forward as a strong woman. We’re also briefly introduced to Jennifer’s daughter Christy – who, it turns out, is as strong as her mother ever was, turning down a ridiculously overpaid modelling gig so she can stick to her principles. Christy, it also turns out, is also just a vicious as her mother was when it comes to fighting back against her oppressors!

The big difference with I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu of course, is that we know what Jennifer Hills is capable of. We know she’s strong-willed and we know she’ll never give up. This sequel is more about how Hills copes with the loss of her daughter. And how her daughter, the daughter of a rape survivor, copes with being in a similar situation to her mother and how she’d get her revenge. Oh and dear god does she get her revenge! If you came to this movie looking for a film that could live up to the revenge aspect of Zarchi’s controversial original, then you’ve definitely come to the right place. Revenge is gotten, by multiple parties, at multiple times, with varying degrees of gruesomeness, and sometimes hilariousness (seriously, one of the deaths is horrible yet blooody, pardon the pun, funny!). Interestingly though, and this is the most intriguing part of the film, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu plays a lot with audience expectation. A hell of a lot. However to say more would spoil what Zarchi and co. have in store for their audience…

One, other, thing Zarchi achieves with I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu is the innate ability to [re]create an uncomfortable viewing experience. The same unsettling, somewhat crazed, nature of the original is reflected beautifully here – which is unexpected given just how far the genre has come since 1978, pushing the boundaries of acceptability way beyond that of the decade in which Zarchi film first found infamy. Its down to the sheer uninhibited performances from all involved that this film feels as dangerous, as “unclean,” as I Spit on Your Grave did.

The films only downfall? The bum-numbing two-and-a-half hour runtime! Even hardened horror fans might struggle to sit through this over-long fear flick, which doesn’t leave anything to imagination; with every action, every motivation wrote large on the screen. With a little trimming, and a little more faith in the audience to put the pieces together themselves, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu could have been a taut, terrifying redux of Zarchi’s magnum opus. As it stands now, this is a great sequel to an even greater original – and a brilliant example of just how good a scream queen Jamie Bernadette really is!

**** 4/5

I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the US now.

One Response to “‘I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu’ Review”

  • Rick Wasserman

    Your review is honest and objective. Considering how sensitive the film is I believe many will be personally moved unable to feel objective emotionally. To many people will identify with the victims who have been callously treated by our jaded system of injustice. Today our world has advanced in a myriad of ways but socially where rape is concerned victims are still emotionally re raped!