I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

  Meir Zarchi
Studios:  Cinemagic Pictures
Starring:  Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann
Tagline:  After it was all over... she waited... then she struck back in a way only a woman can!
MPAA Rating:  X
Genre:  horror, thriller, psychological horror, drama, suspense, revenge
Scare score:  D-
Rating:  C-

Plot overview:  Aspiring writer Jennifer Hill (Keaton) takes a relaxing break from life in New York City in order to spend a peaceful summer working on her first novel upstate.  Little does she expect that her first few days at her rented lakehouse will become the most nightmarish of her life.

If you spend more than a day researching the horror genre, you will most likely read something about this film.  Some fans praise it for its grit and truth while others (including Roger Ebert) disregard it as depressing and disgusting garbage.  Personally, Horror Buff didn't love this film, but not necessarily because of the material it contained.  On the contrary, I disliked this film more because of what it lacked.

I didn't see the appeal to this film.  The sound was awful, the acting was bad, the filming quality was poor, the writing was both predictable and not believable, and then the main action of the movie was just uncomfortable to watch and suffer through.  Before you can judge a film's content, the basic features of sound and cinematography are going to affect your opinion: and in this case of this movie they don't help.  At several points throughout the movie I found myself speaking aloud with lines I hadn't heard yet simply because they were so cliche - although perhaps Jenny's writing was meant to be that way.  

Plot and progression-wise, I just didn't get it.  Girl arrives upstate (cough Connecticut cough), immediately skinny dips in broad daylight, proceeds to write bad literature in a wild hammock, and then some complete strangers decide to abduct and rape her?  Now I'm not saying that there aren't bad people in the world, but four men randomly kidnapping, assaulting, raping, and "killing" a young woman - mind you a published author - simply seemed too random and forced for me.  Obviously "idle hands are the devil's tools" and oftentimes bad things come from boredom, but it seemed to me that Zarchi just wanted to make a sexual/ violent picture along with some feminist social commentary, and that this movie was the result of the easiest way for him to do that.  That easy way being attacking women (physically, sexually) in order to attack men (sexually, socially).

Yes, I side with those who say that this is in fact a feminist movie.  While I mainly sat there bored and uncomfortable while watching this during dinner last night, the end of the movie was when things began to make more sense to me.  No - I didn't find the revenge realistic or practical (I'd like to see an average human hang another human like that), nor did I find her psychological reaction very believable - however, I did think the important message came from when her body changed from being a victim to becoming the weapon.  During her spree of revenge, Jennifer uses her looks, her words, her body, and sex as weapons against the very men who once used her looks and body as excuses to silence her words and take sex against her will.  The fact that the original title of this film was "Day of the Woman" seems much more appropriate to me.  While the main action of this movie is disturbing and perhaps unnecessary, the whole purpose of the movie comes together when Johnny (Tabor) is giving his reasons as to why they raped and beat her in the first place, citing typical and truly base excuses such as "she asked for it" based on her clothing and actions.  Suddenly all the characters came to represent feminists or chauvenists, intelligible or stupid, ignorant people (at least in terms of sexual assault and rape).  The men came to represent the most basic and brute stereotype of 'man,' who takes what he wants by force (and then weasles his way out of responsibility).  As Johnny said, he may be happily married with kids but at the end of the day he's just a man.  When Jennifer regains her senses and carries out her revenge, she emasculates (physically and otherwise) her victims by using her feminine wiles, taking their manhood and their lives in her stride.

Regardless of sociosexual commentary, I thought the movie was just not very good, regardless of taste and vulgarity.  There is an obvious criticism here not only of men and women but of society (violence, possession, anger) in general.  Yet while we watch an innocent woman brutally beat up and violated, the movie's denouement and final commentary still fails to overly attack men and male sexual behavior/ violence.

Final critique:  This movie is not for everybody.  It is certainly a violent movie filled with physical and sexual aggression and a definitive lack of clothing. Like honestly, why was nobody ever wearing clothes?  I don't even want to imagine what denim overalls and no underwear must be like in the summer or ever.  The quality is poor and the overall product is heavily sadistic.  At the same time, I think this movie goes places that other movies are afraid to directly go without being overly gory or entering into torture porn.  I won't watch this again, but I might consider checking out the sequel to see what they change.