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I Spit on Your Grave


The first one is of the original 1978 'I Spit on Your Grave' Enjoy!




Iím not sure how I came across this film, it probably popped up on the recommended bar on YouTube after I watched Wes Cravenís directorial debut The Last House on The Left (1972) which focuses on the often controversial narrative focus of ďrape and revengeĒ a plot device that was employed by a vast number of film makers in the 1970s and 80s. Nevertheless, when I clicked on the link, I donít think I was prepared for what I was about witness (bare in mind I think I was 14 when I first saw this!).

I Spit On Your Grave, like Last House, is a rape-and-revenge flick that follows the aspiring writer Jennifer Hills (played by Camille Keaton, pictured below) as she escapes the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle and flees to a secluded, rural haven, where she hopes that she will be able to complete her project in a tranquil and picturesque environment. Little does she know that a gang of local hill billies have sinister intentions that they enact on Jennifer not too long after her arrival. After capturing Jennifer whilst she is relaxing in a skimpy bikini, the four men subsequently beat, rape, fight, sodomise, humiliate, rape and then beat her up again and leave her to die. After being forced to to endure such horrific pain, Jennifer decides to exact her own revenge against each perpetrator, which she believes is befitting of the crimes they committed against her. Once she executes all of the men who wronged her, the credits begin to roll, with Jennifer sailing away from the scene with a look of indifference hung across her face.

Director Meir Zarchi made his directorial debut with this feature and itís quite obvious that he was working on a very tight budget. Consequently, this achieves some very mixed results, which does make it quite a hard film to rate. However:

Positives

It achieves what it sets out to do. Itís intention is to shock, and to display the true brutality and unpleasantness of sexual violence, something that mainstream films had either never done before, or they had approached the issue in a peculiar way (i.e. Clark Gable forcing himself on Vivien Leigh with the next shot showing an image of a sexually satisfied Leigh the following morning). Thatís going off topic a bit, but, yes, its depictions of rape are very bleak and do mirror the true nature of the crime, that inevitably leads for many uncomfortable viewing moments. In part, this is down to magnificent Camille Keaton who delivers a consistently impressive performance as the primary protagonist of the film. She displays quite a vast array of emotions and not once did I cringe at her acting, sadly though she never fulfilled her acting potential (in my opinion anyway) and her career stagnated afterwards. In fact, Iíd go as far to say that the credibility and merit of this film is held together by Camille. If Jennifer had been portrayed by a weaker actress, then what would have been left was a campy out take of rape and sexual violence against women that may have faded into obscurity (or eventually gather a cult following due its camp factor). Its avoidance of this, is largely due to the dedication, courage and commitment Camille placed into this role.

The film also contains no score, but according to the trivia on IMDb, Zarchi did try to find an appropriate score but he couldnít select anything that enhanced the effects he was trying to create, so in the end he decided to avoid using a score altogether. Personally, I believe this was the correct decision to make, for instead all we are left to hear are the screams of anguish released by Keaton and considering the ultra seriousness of the topic, it probably would been a little bit odd hearing a funky 70s score playing in the background, and the camp factor would have reached levels thankfully never seen before!

Technically, this film was released in the late seventies, yet, it didnít flourish under its original title Day of The Woman. It was actually under a 1980 re-release where it was released under the revised, and far more popular title. During this release, it was classified by feminists and prominent film critics alike as misogynistic and a glorification of violence against women. Interestingly, Roger Ebert called it ďthe worst film ever made.Ē They believed that it allowed male viewers to sympathise with the rapists, but as a male myself, I find this interpretation to be completely false. I would never condone rape or sexual violence in any way, shape or form. The film also takes a similarly firm stance, it allows us to hear the hill billies justifications for what they did, and anyone with even the smallest quantity of intelligence will be able to comprehend that these men are not to be identified with, for their reasons (she wore a dress, she wants our attention) our flimsy and outrageous.

I do believe that the more modern perceptions of this film are the more accurate ones. Former feminists who detested the film now acknowledge it to be a prime example of early feminism within the horror genre. The reason I agree with this, ultimately, is because Jennifer is an empowered woman and a multi-dimensional character. Weaker writers who attempt to create powerful females will create women who are sweet, admirable, intelligent, perceptive, benevolent etc. in other words, they create squeaky clean, cardboard cut outs who possess no flaws and therefore arenít accurate representations of women at all (a good example of this would be Jade Aldemir from the recent video game Dying Light). However, Jennifer is flawed, after she takes justice into her own hands and removes all of her enemies, we get the impression that Jennifer has become even more traumatised and broken than she was after her initial ordeal. Therefore, I believe Zarchi (who also acts as the filmís writer) is trying to make an anti-violence message, which I approve of to be honest.

However, Ebert and many other peopleís confusion over the true intentions of this filmís creation arenít totally out blown out of proportion, to see this film in the way they do isnít that hard to be honest, which leads us onto the:

Negatives

As mentioned several times in this review, this film was shot on a micro-budget. Therefore, pretty much every aspect of the film is diminished to an extent. For example, the cast. Asides from Camille Keaton (interestingly a distant relative of Buster Keaton) the male cast is pretty dire. Their screams of pleasure really go over the top at times and all of them with the exception of Eron Tabor (the ring leader, also the victim in the infamous bathtub scene) exaggerate their acting to quite an embarrassing degree. Iím fairly certain that if the Razzies had been around then, one or two them would have been serious contenders for the Worst Supporting Actor award.

Another one of Ebertís (many) complaints about this film was that it didnít posses a shred of artistic meritÖ and itís kind of true, being subtle is not a strong point of this film. But simultaneously, this works in Zarchiís favour in other ways (as mentioned above).

But despite everything this review has said, I find it hard to understand why this film was made or who it is meant to cater for. This isnít an enjoyable film whatsoever, although it is powerful and youíll be thinking about it long after the credits have finished. This film also holds the record for the longest rape scene in cinematic history (about 40 minutes) and it is extremely hard to endure, even for dedicated followers of horror like myself. Zarchi did state that he was inspired to make it after helping a young woman who had been the victim of a vicious gang rape and he is making a point in making this film. But maybe he could have done so in a different way perhaps? Either way, you will probably only ever watch this film once and I wouldn't recommend watching it for a first date!

Conclusion

It is a peculiar contribution to the horror genre, and for an exploitation film, it is pretty good actually. I liked its development and inclusion of one of the most complex and perplexing female characters that horror has ever seen, yet the poor acting, drawn out rape scenes and the overall depressing nature of the film leave me with quite mixed feelings. Therefore, Iíll reward this film a: