It’s Date Night

Directed by Steven R. Monroe and starring Sarah Butler as Jennifer Hills, Jeff Branson as Johnny Miller, Andrew Howard as Sheriff Storch, Daniel Franzese as Stanley, Rodney Eastman as Andy and Chad Lindberg as Matthew. Also stars Tracey Walter as Earl, Mollie Milligan as Mrs. Storch and Saxon Sharbino as Chastity Storch.

I rave about these films quite a bit; the original, this one and its sequel. I rate them all very highly and I thought it was about time I reviewed one of them. I watched the full uncut version of the original again quite recently so I thought I’d start with the remake; I flat-out refuse to review the sequel to this until I have a copy that isn’t cut to shreds, and I mean shreds.

So, where did it all begin? Well, I remember seeing and loving the poster of the original a lot as a kid in video shops, I really wanted to see it but that was never going to happen, Dawn of the Dead (1978) was a family favourite, The Evil Dead (1981) was fine too, even Shivers (1975) got a look in but sadly I Spit on Your Grave (1978) was a no-no. Next I heard of it was years later when my older sister was saying how long the rape scene went on over tea and biscuits one day at my mum’s. She’d obviously been quite disturbed by it which made me want to see it even more. Finally, I bought myself a copy, probably in the noughties, but that was cut to fucking pieces. It wasn’t that long ago actually when I finally saw the ’78 film completely uncut and it blew me away, it was just so different and much more powerful than my crappy little cut version, which I binned. I saw this, the remake, for the first time, roundabout the same time as I saw the fully intact original, the remake obviously sparking my interest again. I loved the remake! I was really looking forward to the sequel but, well, you know the rest… cut to fuck, not to put too fine a point on it.

The next bit may contain spoilers although really I doubt there’s anything you wouldn’t find out from the trailer, the DVD packet or a synopsis somewhere else. I try to compliment someone’s first viewing of a film with a basic outline of the build up in a film rather than describe specific things like kills or shocks or later plot developments, the stuff you sit down to see; that’s what I try to do anyway.

So, the remake… Sarah Butler steps into the role of Jennifer Hills, made iconic by Camille Keaton in ’78, a novelist who retreats to a cabin in the woods for some peace and quiet. She stops for gas and there’s a bit of an awkward moment between her and a guy called Johnny Miller who works there resulting in Johnny embarrassing himself in front of a couple of his pals. Later we see that someone is filming Jennifer through a screen door. A guy called Matthew, who has some kind of learning difficulties, comes to do some repairs, when he’s finished Jennifer briefly kisses him, just a small gesture of thanks but it startles him a little. We then see Matthew meet up with three of his friends who include Johnny Miller, a guy called Stanley and a guy called Andy, all from the gas station, we also find out that it’s Stanley who was filming Jennifer. Anyway, these ‘good ol’ boys’ pay Jennifer a visit at the cabin, terrorising and gang-raping her. But they picked on the wrong girl.

A very well-made film. As much as I love Camille Keaton in the ’78 film, Sarah Butler makes the role of Jennifer Hills her own with an outstanding performance. Credit where credit’s due, it can’t be easy to even act like you’re in the situation the character finds herself in. That said, it can’t be easy for the male actors in this film either, having to play guys who would do this to a woman. It’s disturbing. And it’s disturbing because it’s convincing. I’m not going to attempt to say whether the remake is more or less disturbing than the original, and I’m not going to go into which is the better made film and why; there’s more than 30 years between the two and frankly they’re both harrowing films and obviously they’re going to be very different. It’s probably worth mentioning that the original had a reputation, has a reputation, and a cult status that this was/is never going to achieve.

I can tell you why I love these films. Because they go somewhere that, however unpleasant, is valid subject matter for a film. Is a film about gang-rape over the line? Is it over the line because it turns a serious real-life crime into what is essentially entertainment? Look, someone getting stabbed is a serious real-life crime, so is someone getting shot, or beaten up. So, are films that include stabbings and shootings over the line? That’s a lot of films. Is it over the line because it’s a horror film about gang-rape and not some Oscar-winning serious drama about gang-rape? That would be blatantly unfair. This film and its predecessor don’t glorify gang-rape in any way, they depict a horrific crime as horrific, and just wrong, and just disgusting, pretty much what an Oscar-winning film would do, no? I think the main controversy comes from the revenge side of the film, now that’s unrealistic so that could understandably be deemed as trivialising what went before it. So, you know, maybe that’s a valid point. Personally, I see it as no different to Rambo dispatching a bunch of evil bastards for being evil bastards, and evil takes many forms, including gang-rape.

Jennifer Hills says fuck you and die to a bunch of arseholes who terrified, humiliated and violated her and likely would someone else. She becomes the vigilante. It’s the ‘Day of the Woman’ as the original title of the ’78 film said it was. It’s fucking biblical revenge and these are your front row seats. I highly recommend it. The effects won’t leave you feeling short-changed, neither will the lengths this film goes to to deliver. On Blu-ray it’s just beautiful. Treat yourself. Don’t let this film be swept under the rug because it tells a difficult story to hear, because it’s a difficult film to watch. It’s just a film, a horror film, a decent horror film and it might well have been made in 2010 but it’s a modern classic.