At issue are not Jennifer's specific acts of revenge, including the infamous bathroom scene, but rather the series of brutal rapes that precede them. I do not want to meet anyone who is not disturbed by these rape scenes and I think it is fairly obvious that Zarchi intended to make audiences uncomfortable. In retrospect you have to wonder about all those movies with rape scenes that do NOT upset the audience (the current obvious exception that proves the rule would be what happens in "Monster" right before the first murder). But Zarchi certainly pours it on thick, absolutely assuring that things go beyond the tolerance level of anyone who watches this film. So the bottom line is that this film will upset you and it is therefore effective at doing exactly what it wants to do. I have always considered this an "X" rated movie although I would not consider it pornographic in the traditional sense. But it is a very disturbing film and I do not think I would want my kids to see it until after they graduate college (if ever). Anyone renting this film for cheap thrills is in for a shock.
As I now understand it, this 1978 film was originally released as "Day of the Woman," but that rather innocuous title was replaced by the well known "I Spit on Your Grave," although the film was also screened as "I Hate Your Guts" and "The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill." All of this is interesting since it seems the producers were trying to pass off this film with both higher and lover levels of pretention. The cult status here is more for the shock value than any cheap artistic pretentions, that is for sure.
In the uncut version of this soupçon-budget flick--which is the version offered on the DVD from Elite--the gang-rape and torture sequence consumes an inordinate amount of screen time. Though this sequence has sometimes been compared to the sodomy scene in Boorman's DELIVERANCE (1972), it is more often criticized as being merely gratuitous and subliminally misogynistic. Unlike Boorman, who only slyly and skillfully SUGGESTS the sodomy and torture in his famous film, the director of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, Meir Zarchi, is unflinchingly graphic in his depiction of rape. He doesn't want to do anything that might candy-coat this bitter pill, because he wants the audience to see just how abhorring such personal violation actually is.
Lauded by loyal fans as a simple film that makes an important and abstruse point, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is admittedly neither complex nor deep. Yes, the plotting is rudimentary and subtext is virtually nonexistent. Yes, the film lacks a musical score. And, yeah, a few of the characters are trite, shallow, and one-dimensional, and some of the dialogue is hokey. To certain aesthete filmgoers, this raw simplicity may come across as banal, sophomoric cinema. But aesthetics is only a secondary concern with this film. The primary purpose is to declare a particular message or two and to declare them as in-your-face as possible. The film DOES indeed have a couple of staunch points to make regarding the repugnance of rape and misogyny, an individual's rights regarding their body, and the justification for exacting eye-for-an-eye revenge. And it proclaims these points in a graphically straightforward manner that, if nothing else, certainly grabs the audience's attention.
The Elite DVD version of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE offers a surprisingly clear, clean anamorphic transfer of the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The sound, while not as impressive as the digital video, is available in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Surround Sound 5.1, or the original mono. The disc's extras include a feature commentary by the director, as well as a hilarious commentary track by cult-film aficionado and critic Joe Bob Briggs, the stage persona of actor/writer John Bloom. (Joe Bob's articulate, knowledgeable, and extremely humorous commentary is itself worth the disc's purchase price.) Also included are the theatrical trailers--some of which promote the film under its original title--various interviews, and press-coverage items that include the merciless repudiation of the film by some famous critics. For a film that has generated such negative publicity over the years, this is quite meritorious bonus material.
True, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is an exploitative splatter film with a plot that is often dismissed by critics as a tale of one city girl and handful of sadistic hayseeds traipsing through a series of grisly scenes. It's definitely not for the squeamish, but anybody who views the film is certain to walk away with a firm pathos for rape victims and a strong disdain for rapists. And since that is what the filmmakers were aiming for, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE must be regarded as a highly successful film.