November 19th, 2021
MOVIE: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
STARRING: CAMILLE KEATON, ERON TABOR, RICHARD PACE, GUNTER KLEEMANN, ANTHONY NICHOLS
DIRECTED BY: MEIR ZARCHI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 STAR (Out of 4)
The badge of honor for I Spit on Your Grave seems to be that it’s an awful movie, something that is incredibly difficult to watch, brutally shocking, and it knows it. Director Meir Zarchi’s rape-revenge horror film arrived six years after Deliverance was one of the biggest movies of the decade, but what separates the two is a completely different set of rules. Little did we know that in many years to come, the rape revenge film would be an impactful statement of feminism in cinema. From Thelma & Louise, the sun soaked horror film Revenge, M.F.A. with the college campus vengeance, and most recently Carey Mulligan taking her power back in Promising Young Woman. An argument can be made that it started with I Spit on Your Grave, now in stores in a gorgeously transferred 4K blu-ray from Ronin Flix, where the threshold of shock horror was pushed to the edge. I Spit on Your Grave is not a good movie, but the more people hate it, the bigger impact it has.
The premise is relatively simple, where Jennifer (Camille Keaton) has taken herself to a summer home along the lake, with hopes of relaxing and doing some writing for her next book. She’s taking a break from living the fast life of New York, going to a small town in Connecticut, and at first it all seems peaceful. When a local delivery man named Matthew (Richard Pace) brings her groceries from the local store, he likes what he sees in Jennifer, reporting it back to his backwoods buddies. What follows is the “opportunity” that Matthew and his demented buddies see as a chance to take advantage of this lone women, which turns into a violent series of gang raping, and beatings from each one of the four monsters. They leave her for dead, but they don’t anticipate her surviving, and after Jennifer is able to rest, recover from this horrific experience, she comes back to get her revenge on all the men that mistreated her.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not that movies with a premise such as this has not been done before, and typically there comes a great catharsis in revenge narratives. It’s just that I Spit on Your Grave, which was once titled Day of the Woman, is enjoying the debauchery and violence of rape too much. Nothing about it is artistic or saying something, it’s exploitation of trauma, and becomes relentless in the repetitive nature of focusing on Jennifer’s rape. I often speak about how seeing less is better in horror films. When we hear the sound of the knife puncturing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho we feel it, or see it in our mind’s eye. There are various lines to cross and not cross with the subject of rape as well. When Gaspar Noe forces the audience to experience Monica Bellucci’s rape in Irreversible, it’s done with an artistic purpose, to make the audience truly feel that pain, telling us not to look away, but also moving the story from there. I Spit on Your Grave is pure shock for the sake of shock. There’s nothing but cruelty within the text of this film.
What’s weird about a film of this nature is how it withstands the test of time, where multiple sequels have been made, including the remake from 2010, which sprung even more sequels after. That has to mean something, where there’s a market for the horror audience that might see more honesty, or have an appreciation for shock theater, such as Hostile, The Human Centipede, or A Serbian Film, all of which somehow have had audiences to view them. I find movies of this nature to lack in purpose, falling over the line of excess, where the point has been smashed into the ground, leaving me saying, “enough already”. It’s fascinating that the line of too much can be crossed. It’s not that I’m a prude to this material, I just know my limits when they are hit.
In saying all that, I still understand why I Spit on Your Grave exists and I would be lying if I didn’t say it struck a nerve of joy to see Jennifer get her revenge on the gang of psychos. The 4K restoration looks excellent, highlighting an authentic, natural look of rural living, and a haunting fear of what people are capable of. Had I Spit on Your Grave had a more creative touch, or a more focused messaging the way The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did, we might be praising it much more, instead it’s too vile for my senses. I Spit on Your Grave still has a place in the horror genre today, but much like the many film critics in 1978 felt, this movie made me want to shower as soon as it ended. Need to wash it off somehow.
THE 4K/BLU-RAY OF I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE IS NOW AVAILABLE IN STORES WHERE SOLD FROM RONIN FLIX
WRITTEN BY: Leo Brady