I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Deja Vu Llc
Written and Directed by Mier Zarchi
2019, 148 minutes, Rated 18
DVD released on 23rd April 2019
Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills
Jamie Bernadette as Christy Hills
Maria Olsen as Becky
Jim Tavaré as Herman
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then it doesn’t come much chillier than I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu, a sequel arriving over forty years after the fact. Any cult horror fan worth their salt will know the story of Mier Zarchi’s infamous 1978 video nasty, in which a wronged woman wreaks revenge upon her rapists. Hated, picketed and banned upon release, I Spit on Your Grave is nevertheless well-recognised as a ‘classic’ of the video nasty movement, and one of the most controversial horror films of all time. None of which means one actually has to like it though, and the film remains a point of controversy, even today.
Like it or not, the, uh, franchise has reared its head once more, for a fifth outing (following a 2010 remake and its subsequent sequels), this time dragging original heroine Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) along for the ride. This makes Deja Vu the only official sequel to I Spit on Your Grave; a direct continuation of the original movie written and directed by Zarchi himself.
With Hills now entering her dotage and living a life of minor celebrity, having written a book about her ordeal and working with fellow survivors, Zarchi catches up with her and daughter Christy – ‘the most famous model in the world’ - as they brunch together and the latter bemoans how easy and unsatisfying her lot in life is. Enter a gang of murderous hillbillies, who kidnap Jennifer and Christy, stealing them away to small town America, where they intend to make Jennifer at last pay for her ‘crimes’…
What took the families of Johnny, Matthew, Andy and Stanley so long to get it together and exact their revenge upon the now-pensionable Hills is unclear - as is how old any of the characters are supposed to be, with wives, children and grandparents popping up all over the place, all in a fairly sprightly mood given that the first film happened in 1978. Nevertheless, their vendettas have not diminished with time. Led by the manic Becky, together they reopen old wounds and inflict new ones upon mother and daughter. As though Jennifer Hills hadn’t suffered enough already.
And suffering is the name of Zarchi’s game in Deja Vu, a film which heaps fresh misery upon misery, putting Jennifer and Christy through the wringer before the rape sequences have even begun. The action pulls no punches, and those thinking that Zarchi might have cooled off in his old age are in for a shocking wake-up call.
Zarchi has, however, apparently developed a tendency towards rambling in his later years, and Deja Vu goes on and on, packed with banal sub Tarantino-esque dialogue and extended sequences in which his idiotic, annoying villains screech at each other for minutes at a time. Where the rape sequences went on for far too long in the original movie, now everything else does too, with the movie rolling in at a staggering, unjustifiable 148 minutes (half an hour less than Avengers: Endgame!).
To his credit, Zarchi has crafted an astonishingly genuine work of exploitation horror here, and a film which goes hand in hand with his previous work. While it looks cleaner, more modern and is generally slicker than its 1978 predecessor, the film is just the right kind of cheap and grubby, and does feel like a return to that world. Too often, belated sequels can feel like a completely different entity, but this is I Spit on Your Grave through and through, from the hokey dialogue to the wooden performances and disappointing revenges.
This is the work of a man who accidentally created one of the most influential, controversial genre movies of all time, desperately, perhaps foolishly attempting to once again capture lightning in a bottle. All of which makes Deja Vu a more palatable film than its predecessors; a bizarre combination of ill-advised comedy and over-the-top violence, featuring bumbling morons as heinous rapists and more endings than Lord of the Rings. At the same time as it leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, it’s hard to take seriously, especially as Zarchi attempts to hammer home a message during the final act, and its villains get more and more idiotic. The world may have moved on, but Meir Zarchi has not.
Jennifer Hills and Camille Keaton deserved better than this. Anyone who wanted a sequel to I Spit on Your Grave this late in the day? They’ve gotten exactly what they deserve.
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