Films don't get more in your face than the remake of the groundbreaking feminist revenge tale, "I Spit On Your Grave."
The title of this film comes from J'irai cracher sur vos tombes, a novel published in 1946 by the French avant-garde author Boris Vian.
Director Meir Zarchi's 1978 horror shocker "Day of the Woman" was renamed this catchy makeover title, translated to English in 1980. The rest was take no prisoners history. Women loved it; the men were divided.
Director Steven Monroe has delivered a crisp remake of this pretty straightforward tale of a young woman, minding her business, who is preyed upon, stalked, raped and brutalized by local townies who have no sense of humanity or soul.
Sarah Butler stars as our protagonist turned huntress, Jennifer Hills, a writer on a solo work vacation in remote Louisiana.
Her evil tormentors in this redux are Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, Andrew Howard, Jeff Branson, Rodney Eastman, with character actor extraordinaire Tracey Walter
who sets up Jennifer at the cabin.
Butler's Jennifer Hills is a writer on a work sabbatical, who survives a level of assault not seen too often in film. She exacts cunning revenge in quiet, calculated measures to ensnare five men who torment her at the isolated cottage in backwoods Louisiana.
Butler is a small town girl from Washington State, and is a former Belle (Beauty and the Beast) at Disneyland with some major guest starring TV roles under her belt. The role of Jennifer Hills is unlike anything in her past acting wheelhouse, and it proves she has the goods to deliver a riveting feature film lead actor performance.
Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the critically acclaimed 2010 remake and the 1978 original version of this venerated cult classic on DVD and high-definition Blu-ray™ nationwide on February 8th.
Monsters and Critics' TV editor April MacIntyre spoke at length with Sarah Butler about her harrowing performance, dealing with the physical aspects of the film, the perils of the Louisiana woods, and her work out secrets for that amazing rear end of hers which is featured in the box art in a pose that replicates the 1978 film's movie poster
Monsters and Critics: I've watched the movie twice and I remember when I watched the original film and I have to say, I really liked it. I posted a news item today about your DVD signing that's coming up in Burbank. It's gotten a lot of interest.
Sarah Butler: That's great. Thank you so much for doing that. You rock!
M&C: Well, it's interesting. There's two camps to this movie. There's people like Roger Ebert who I think doesn't get it and he was very critical of it. And then, my mom is a very devout Catholic. She goes to church twice a week. She doesn't swear. She loved the film. She thought it was great
Sarah Butler: Oh my gosh, you're mom is awesome.
M&C: I'm telling you the truth. She really did love it.
Sarah Butler: That's so great. [laughter]
M&C: And I talked to my DVD editor today and he was more on the Roger Ebert side. He's like, "That film, I don't... " I'm like, "Patrick, you're not a woman." And here's a theory I want to bounce it off of you and get your opinion. I think that men don't understand. I mean, we know the score, right? We know that 99.9% of the time a woman in Jennifer Hill's situation is going to be gator bait. She's not going to survive that. She's going to be mauled, molested, tortured, raped, chopped up, whatever, left for dead. And this film sort of celebrates what in our hearts we wish could happen if we were in that horrible situation.
Sarah Butler: Yeah, you have to nail on the head with that one. It's like this revenge fantasy. And luckily, I can't speak from personal experience because I've never actually have been gang raped, but I do know that every single person in the world identifies with the feeling of revenge and fantasies...
Like revenge fantasies. Even if it's something stupid, like somebody cut me off on the freeway and I was like, I'm dreaming about making them pullover and giving them a piece of my mind, you know what I mean? And how great that would feel. This is like that to the extreme. And so, I think that is the appeal of this movie, is that we get to kind of live what would happen if someone really was raped and said, "I'm going to kill those 'bleepers'," and did.
And got out, pulled it off and really got justice, maybe even more than justice.
M&C: There was a progression for your character which went from this fearless... to a victim and then at the end it's almost like you resigned. You just... The way that you walked away from them so slowly. You didn't care if they would have shot you in the back, you're just like, "I'm just walking away from this." And you just fall into the river. And you don't even surface, you're just like underwater letting the current take you away.
Then you become this incredible... I don't want to say sociopathic, but borderline, something switched, like they had snapped you mentally and instead of becoming a victim and falling into that victim's grief, you turned it into such rage. Talk about that process and how you, you with the actors, got on with each other?
Sarah Butler: Yeah. Well, to address your first point there, it was the progression of the character. It was largely due to the fact that our director's Steven Monroe insisted that we shoot this film in chronological order and we did. There was like maybe two little bed scenes, the part where we had to put it out of order because of shooting schedules and locations and whatnot, but mainly it was in order. So, I got to actually experience all the terror of that rape, but not assault on me. And I had that literally in my past to reflect on in my revenge. So I definitely couldn't have pulled out the same performance had we not shot like that.
And the same thing goes, there's just as much credit due to the fact that these guys were very, very respectful of me and they each made it a point to kind of confirm with me like, "What is your comfort level?", like, "What can we do and what can't we do?", "Do you want to designate a word that if you say it, we'll completely just back off?" Like, "What do you need? Because we want you to be comfortable." And they were all so, so protective of me. And I, literally, my response to them was like, "Bring it on." [laughter]
"Let's make this movie. We all signed up for this movie. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and that's me included. If I was afraid of this movie, I shouldn't have signed up for it, so I want you to give me everything you've got and I want this to be real."
And they did. And so knowing that we had that understanding, allowed us to really like dig in and get into these super dark places and just make some really messed up stuff. And then, we were so proud of it. And we went back to the hotel at the end of the day and sat there with beers and we're like, "Oh my God," like "What did we do today?"
Sarah Butler: "That was so messed up." [laughter] "It was amazing." So, yeah, and still to this day, I think we all have a special bond. We all hang out still and I consider them some of my closest friends. And I think because you have to, you can't help but get close to someone on filming any movie, but especially when you're being so intimate like we were in this movie. I feel like we all kind of knew each other in a way that you wouldn't with another subject material in another film.
M&C: Were you injured at all in any of these? You took some real hits and were thrown, were you injured at all?
Sarah Butler: I did suffer some minor cuts and bruises. I think the worst parts were just getting thrown about. Because I got bruises on my elbows and my knees and my hip bones and stuff from that, from the holding down on the floor and writhing, and whatnot.
And then, when we were in the swamp, during kind of the second rape sequence, I was... There was a mattress under the leaves and the sticks. But I was like pretty much almost completely naked and I was being thrown on top of it. So, I had all of these scrapes, all down the front side of me.
That night I was like, I hurt so bad I have to go in the hot tub, I need to relax, and I grabbed a beer out of my fridge and I walked down to the hot tub in my swimsuit and all these cuts all over me. And I got in the water, I said, "Aw! Oh!"
"Shit! Hell!" [laughter]
And one by one, all the guys come down with a beer. [laughter]
I was like, "Hey, what's up? How are you doing?" They were like, "Are you okay?" I'm like, "I'm good. How about you?" And they're like, "I am messed up, man."
So, we all kind of took comfort in that together.
M&C: One of the scenes that I really enjoyed and it was really the only scene that you used your sex appeal to entrap, I think it was Johnny, the big good-looking one that was sort of like the ring leader of the guys.
Sarah Butler: Yeah, Jeff Branson. Yup, Johnny.
M&C: So you were like rocking this great hairdo and you had a miniskirt on, until you sort of like turned around, and you clocked him with the tire iron. I'm an effects freak. I love good make-up effects. You have a horse bit in his mouth and you extract his teeth, which by the way, the teeth scene and the hooks in the eye scene where the guy's eyes were hooked up with fishhooks, that make-up was amazing. Can you talk a little geek talk about the effects?
Sarah Butler: Well, that's Jason Collins. That's Jason Collins all the way and he is amazing. And yeah, he's just totally old school which I had never really worked with that kind of effects before.
But, working with him I realized like how cool it is because it's just, it's difficult. Not only are you working in the scene where I had to remain in control of the scene and be in my brain as this twisted empty shell of Jennifer. But then, I was dealing with, he had that bridle in his mouth and he had this prosthetic teeth thing, prosthetic gums, basically, like a mouth guard with teeth on the outside of it.
And the teeth, like 3 or 4 of them were removable. And then, what I was using to pull the mouth with was just an old pair of pliers that had been kind of filed down so that they wouldn't hurt him in any way.
Which had absolutely no grip. So, when those teeth are covered in all the fake blood, maybe 4 or 5 different varieties of fake blood because there's so many. I don't know if people have noticed, like there's the dried blood, the congealed blood, the crusted blood, the... [laughter] And everything. And he had all this blood, and then they also gave him KY Jelly in his mouth to protect the corners of his mouth from the bridle, which I was constantly yanking on.
And kind of gripped the keys of all these things stuck on there, it was so difficult. It really was, but when you see the end product, it's just like, "Oh my God, that is brutal and it's awesome."
M&C: No, it was an unbelievable scene. And I loved it because, obviously I didn't like him. But, the... Talk about the crows, too, with the fishhooks, I mean, it really looked like his eyelids were hooked by those fishhooks...
Sarah Butler: That was Daniel Franzese.
M&C: Stanley, right?
Sarah Butler: Yeah. That was also prosthetics. So, literally, fake eyelids, with fake eye lashes, which were glued on to his own eyelids. But, it's still scary, because I had fish hooks and I had to stick them through the prosthetic which was like millimeters away from his actual eyelid. So, it had to be precise and there had to be a lot of trust there. So, [chuckle] people always... Oh man, they cringe up. People are screaming out in the theater like, "Oh God!" when they see that. It's great. Just the response we wanted.
M&C: I loved that scene where he is being dissolved in lye. That was a wonderful touch.
Sarah Butler: Yeah.
M&C: So, Jennifer Hills, a pretty fearless lady, even when she knew the odds were against her, you were fighting back. You had a lot of fight in you. How much are you like your character? And is there anything that really scares you? I mean, would you ever go on a trip by yourself and stay in a cabin by yourself? Be real.
Sarah Butler: Probably not in the woods, but maybe on the beach or something. For some reason, that doesn't seem as scary to me. But, in general, not because I'm scared, but I just like being with people. I like people, so maybe it would be good for me to take a vacation on my own. Just kind of like, get in touch with my own person, like my own self, or whatever they say.
But, I'm not that type. I want to be with people. I want to laugh and tell stories and stuff. And so, I need company most of the time. But, as far as having the site in me, totally I'm a scrapper. Like, if my boyfriend tries to tickle me or something, like he better watch out, because he could end up getting a knee to the crotch, if he isn't careful. And it's not even because I'm mean or something. It's just because maybe I'm a control freak or something. I just don't give up. And I've always kind of said, "I pity the fool that tries to rape me, because I will pull out moves that he has never seen."
M&C: I couldn't help but notice, obviously, you're exactly the way that they styled you for the cover of the DVD is identical. Even the wardrobe and everything is identical to the 1978 film, which I thought was a really cool touch.
Sarah Butler: Yeah, I love that poster, too, when I saw it. So, I was really happy when they wanted to do that.
M&C: No, seriously. listen, I am straighter than Yoko Ono's pubic hair. But, you have an amazing butt. My son is like, "Oh my God! She's gorgeous." I'm like, "I know." So, your character runs for exercise in this...
Sarah Butler: Thank you! [laughter]
M&C: ...in the film. I want to know details, okay? I want to know what regimen, food, diet, exercise, everything you did to get in such a phenomenal shape with this movie
Sarah Butler: Thank you. I didn't have much time. I only had a couple of weeks. But, I'm an active person in general. So, I think I had a good base. But, my boyfriend's a trainer, so it was pretty cool because I go, "Hey, you need to start, put me on a regimen here." And so, he's a typical, kind of like, "You know, we got to pare it down. You're not going to eat sugar or carbs very much." He knows he can't get me to not eat chocolate, like at least a couple of times a week because I need it. It's like a major food group for me. "But, just pare it down. Maybe cut it in half if you can." So, that's what I did.
Every time I ate, I just tried to have something protein and vegetables. You know what I mean? Or fruit sometimes here and there. And then, I was running at least every other day. When I was on set, I even would get up in the mornings and run. I'd run like 5 in the morning and then I would go to a shower and go to the set. And that normally kept me in good shape, but through all the fried craft service food that they have in the Louisiana set. But, it also kept me focused. You know what I mean? Like, I got to get in that physical action in the morning, really kept me focused on what I was doing. So, I did that, I was running, I was doing a bit of Yoga. I was doing weights, and calisthenics, and a lot of crunches and squats.
Anything I could get done. I was working out at least once a day before I went.
M&C: So, do you have any good anecdotes about Tracey Walter? the character actor that you rent the cabin from?
Sarah Butler: Yeah, he was so funny. Like, he showed up later on the set, once we were all kind of established there and we knew each other and he... I remember I was wearing... It was lunch time when I met him and we were all going out and getting our food and sitting at the picnic tables and I think it may have been one of the days that I had to make it or something, because I just remembered I wore some sweat pants that I had to stay covered in between takes, I guess. And they happen to be Abercrombie & Fitch sweatpants and he said... I tried to find the ones that were the least, like, out there with their company name.
So they're just really small, have some stitching that said 'stitch' and have like a little... Like a foot with the wings on it. You know, like the track and field, little foot with the wings. I meet him and like, "Hi, I am Sarah". We have chat. "I'm Tracy. Nice to meet you." And I'm like, "Cool. So, yeah, we'll play your scene later today or whatever." He was like, he looks down and he looks up and he goes, "What? Do you go to Stitch University?" [laughter]
And I was like, "Did you just make fun of me?" [laughter] I was like oh... And then I looked out. He had some shirt on. Oh man. See, this was just proof of, like my character, like my personality because I was not going to let him get the upper hand on me. He was wearing some shirt that said like Nike or something and I was like, "What, do you go to Nike University, then?"
M&C: That's awesome.
Sarah Butler: He was kind of like,"Okay, okay, I see what kind of girl... " He didn't say that but he got that look on his face like, "All right, I see what I'm playing with here." He's a funny guy.
M&C: Last question for you. Louisiana. You shot in Louisiana?
Full of insects and all kinds of crawly creepies. Anything gross that really freaked you out when you are running around in the woods that you encountered?
Sarah Butler: Oh, my God. I think I must have been really lucky because I didn't see anything.
When we were at the cabin there were some gnarly spider webs in there where I was like, "Oh my God. The spider that made that is definitely poisonous." [chuckle]
But it's funny. I think they didn't want me to see any because they knew that I would freak out in the middle of a take or something. Because they had people going through and clearing them out wherever I was going to have to go. "Oh, we need her to walk through those trees right there." They're like, "Send one of the PAs to check for spider webs." [laughter]
M&C: That's so funny. I love it!
Sarah Butler: I know I got lucky. Oh my God! I see more cockroaches here in LA than they've got there.