on November 15, 2003
As a slasher movie, it stands the test of time. However, the movie and the story both need work. Since reality programming is now all the rage and people expect a sensibility of reality in their movies, I'll approach my review from the standpoint of the social aura that defines society as of 2003. In other words, I'll cover how the society and this movie feed off one another. It may not be fair to hold a piece from 1978 to the fires of 2003, but I'm going to do it anyway.
I would first make the woman less helpless. She's smart and sophisticated, like most city women, but she doesn't seem strong enough to live in the city. I would give her a bit more strength and common sense. Playing her as a helpless little girly-girl and a pure victim throughout most of the movie should offend most feminists.
However, the "helpless woman" is a powerful ideal that allows women in our modern society to play both sides of the fence in social and legal arenas. Women love to be strong, yet helpless. Empowered, yet underprivileged. Equal, yet they must receive special considerations. Sadly, this enigma is a social phenomenon that allows this movie to work well.
Only a woman can be a helpless killer.
To maintain this unique social power, feminists will turn a blind eye to all fiction and non-fiction characters that portray women in this light. The best way to avoid exposure of the feminist agenda in this script is to distract the moviegoer by pointing a finger directly at what one can visually see: The Rape Scenes.
These scenes are powerful on a disturbing level. But who is it that is committing the rapes? There are four "men" in this group. However, only two of the characters were effectively developed. The Alpha Male (the leader) and Matthew (the retarded man) were developed in such a way that you cared about them a little. However, they were depicted as back-wood country boys (ref: really stupid) who only think with the little head between their legs.
This is about as accurate a depiction of men as the character of the woman. Are women really this helpless and naïve? Are men really this stupid and hormone-driven? These characters are simplistic at best and offensive at worst.
To make the pack of men stronger, I would get rid of one of the miscellaneous friends and develop the third one more. Make the men a little bit smarter; bring the overall challenge to a higher level. People are more complex than what we see on this screen.
I would also get rid of a few scenes. The "Forgive Me" scene in the church was gratuitous at best. Does this woman need an excuse to kill? Does she require forgiveness? She has a good reason to want them dead. Reporting them to the police wouldn't result in a good slasher movie, though, unless the guys killed the one-man police force and brought more peril to the situation (a-la "Misery").
Even if the guys didn't rape her, she could use PMS as a legal defense and no jury would convict her.
Another scene that needs to be cut is the "Missing Husband" scene, where the Alpha Male's fat, bull-dykish, grumpy wife bounces around the yard outside the gas station, wondering where her loser husband has gone. She is not concerned that something bad may have happened to him. Her presence only serves to solidify the feminist agenda of this script.
If my observations do not convince you that feminist tone exists in the film, how about the original title. "Day of the Woman" says it all.
This agenda is so overwhelming that everybody misses the FOURTH rape. What I'm talking about is the rape of Matthew. He just wanted to fit in with the guys and got sucked into their idiocy and mayhem. It was most disturbing when the leader was showing him how to kill with a knife, sending him in the house to do the dirty work. In a feminist light, this shows the true cowardice of the men. However, it could be argued that, if the Alpha Male had carried out the stabbing, Matthew would have blabbed it out at the diner (which he blabs on himself later). Matthew was a pawn in their game.
Finally, I would move the scenes around. Having cut one of the male friends out of the picture, I would kill the least popular one first (maybe the guy wearing the suspenders). Then I'd take Matthew out, and finally blow my cinematic load with the bathroom scene. As the movie stands now, I think that the bathroom scene is the climax of the movie. After this scene, I didn't care about the other two. Having them team up on her was the only (partially) saving grace.
When I got my driver's license in 1980 at the age of 16, the first thing I did was drive to the big city from my little Indiana country town, go to the midnight movie, and see "I Spit On Your Grave." I couldn't wait for the slashing to begin.
Even with my teen hormones awhirl, the rape scenes were still disturbing to me. This gives me hope that all people are not victims of their hormones, especially men who commit the heinous act of rape and women who kill their spouses and children under the guise of PMS.
Those who say that this movie glorifies raping women are missing the bigger picture. Nobody has tackled the notion that there could be an insidious message that it's socially acceptable to kill a man or sever his member because he's "being a man" (insert feminist definition here).
This proves one thing; that this film allows a person to take away from it exactly what they bring into the theatre. The Mysogynist and Mysandrist alike (and normal folks), can revel in the shallow filthiness of this movie.
I loved it!
on November 9, 2003
"I Spit On Your Grave" has a rather remarkable history for an exploitation film. I vividly remember a little video store close to where I lived ten years ago or so placed this film in their adult section, apparently concerned that the disturbing images within were so dangerous that only those interested in the latest Ron Jeremy release could appreciate them. Director Meir Zarchi, a definite one shot wonder if there ever was one, continues to squeeze every drop of coin out of his film as possible. How many different versions of this movie is this guy going to release? A "Millennium Edition"? Are you kidding me? I have spent some time viewing several of the more extreme entries in the exploitation genre, and I can confidently state that "I Spit On Your Grave" is one of the more milder contributions to that exalted field. If you want to watch something truly mind boggling, track down a copy of Ruggiero Deodato's "Cannibal Holocaust." The fact that Zarchi's film got a widespread DVD release while Deodato's little gem remains mired in virtual obscurity constitutes one of the great crimes in the B movie arena. Still, "I Spit On Your Grave" does have a message for those willing to sit down and watch it.
In what must have shocked New York filmgoers who screened this exploitation piece in one of the grindhouse theaters in the 1970s, "I Spit On Your Grave" concerns the brutalizing of a young girl from the Big Apple named Jennifer Hill during a sojourn she makes into rural upstate New York in order to write a novel while slumming around in a riverfront cabin. Jenny, played by a very pretty Camille Keaton, almost immediately runs into four local losers when she stops at a gas station near her rented house. These four goons, after learning that one of their gang has never spent time with a woman, arrive at the brilliant idea of launching a full frontal assault on Jennifer. They don't immediately overwhelm her, of course, but rather build up to it by slowly terrorizing her. They cruise by her digs on a noisy motorboat, distracting her from her writing with their hoots and hollers. Our gang of rural cretins finally makes their move when they discover Jennifer out on the river in a little row boat. Using their big, bad powerboat, the gang hijacks the unfortunate lass's vessel and tows her to shore.
What follows are several distressing scenes of rape and violence, sequences that drag on for what seems like hours as the gang has their fun, lets Jenny go, and then reappears for more nightmarish activities. After this lengthy degradation finally, mercifully comes to a close, the criminals force one of their crew to go dispatch Hill with a knife. Regrettably, for these tough guys who seek to erase the evidence of their monstrous endeavors, the man they pick to do the deed suffers from a mental disability and cannot muster enough nerve to go through with the ultimate crime. Big mistake. Jennifer recovers from her injuries and begins to plot her revenge against her tormentors. Making good use of that old adage about a "woman scorned," Jenny uses her feminine wiles to lure and ultimately murder the four men who committed such nauseating violations. What you would think would provide plenty of gory thrills turns out to be a rather tepid series of revenge killings. One of the men dies when Jenny hangs him from a tree, another in a bathtub when Hill applies a knife to a most cringe worthy area, and the final two in the river. The movie ends with Jenny roaring down the river in a motorboat, seemingly sated by her well laid plans.
Several things do actually work in "I Spit On Your Grave." The willowy, pretty Camille Keaton lounging around her house at the beginning of the film in her bikini is nice (but definitely not later, when the horror begins), but doesn't inspire me to admire in any way the activities of the men in the film, one of whom eventually tells his victim that she was "asking for it" because she wore revealing clothing. I can appreciate what Zarchi tried to do with his nasty little shocker: present a picture of rape that is both as realistic as possible and as disturbing as possible. The director does achieve the desired effect, I think, by showing how such a despicable crime degrades everyone involved in it. What didn't work was the mediocre script, especially when Jennifer Hill goes on her vengeful rampage. The fact that these guys willingly went along with a woman they terrorized just two weeks previously seemed amazingly contrived. I am willing to believe these men are stupid, but not THAT stupid. If a woman who suffered such a horrific incident as Jenny did decided to strike back, I think it would probably resemble something like serial killer Eileen Wuornos's rampage rather than "I Spit On Your Grave." Women simply don't go on killing sprees against their attackers, and even nowadays often don't report rape to the police.
The DVD I watched contained a trailer for the film and a widescreen transfer of the nicely restored picture. "I Spit On Your Grave" is definitely a film with a message and worth watching once, but I recommend renting instead of buying it. If you like viewing Zarchi's film on a regular basis, you probably have some problems that need addressing soon, preferably at a place where nice men in white jackets can introduce you to the wonderful world of Thorazine.
on October 1, 2003
This flick has what so many other great flicks have; nudity and blood. I think this is a great movie, perfect 70's drive-in camp if you will. Camille Keaton plays her role wonderfully. She played both the victim and the avenger perfectly.
This movie is most famous for it's bathroom scene when Camille kills one of her perpetrators. I also like when the idiot gets hung by his neck and gets dumped in the lake. The only complaint I would have with this movie is that while the first two kills were fabulous, the last two seemed rushed. While the first two were killed separately, the last two were killed together, I admit the ax in the back was great, but the boat motor's slicing and dicing was not that realistic. I mean who would climb into a boat on top of the motor?
You would almost think that this film was written and directed by a militant feminist. I mean the four men are just so dumb. Would they really expect a rape victim to suddenly come on to them and want their company? And why would the four men discuss rape, murder, and body decomposition in a tiny and crowded ice cream parlor at a volume where everyone can hear?
People can say what they want about this film, it's trash, it has no value, etc. But how many of the thousands of movies over the last thirty or forty years can claim the same? I believe it's the majority. This story could really happen I think, not in the exact way of course, but a story like this is entirely possible, and it wouldn't be pretty.
on September 24, 2003
Apart from that, a work of genius. I love it. A see once movie really, as it does not and cannot have the same impact twice. Very Andrea Dworkin, even the humour. Looked Scandinavian and reminded me of Bergman (Virgin Spring?) Has a memorable Boudica like climax only missing the Ride of the Valkyries on the soundtrack. Just great stuff.
A writer at the time related the polarized reactions in the theatre. "Kill the b***h!" Reposted on the distaff side with "right on, sister!" Unfortunately, certain parties didn't want things out in the open and the film suffered censure. There's a book to be written on the moral questions raised by the retarded guy alone, but I'll focus on a couple of things. The pivotal moment when Jennifer lowers her gun when she has her tormentor at her mercy. Does he have a point? Yes and no. At that moment it's like she reaches an understanding with nature and Keaton's enigmatic performance nails it. Is Jennifer's transformation too sudden or was she like that from the start? Another unexpected aspect is the ridiculing of her writing. In an odd way this really gets to you more than the rape. In a stroke of genius that makes the film, Jennifer seems to become 'Mary', a fictional character or characters in her own writing, descending upon the men like some incubus and getting poetic revenge for that particular sleight. In fact, I can't make up my mind if the film is merely (?) didactic, or a poetic lament. What it has to say about sexual politics is true.
Director's commentary: Unsurprisingly, Zarchi appeared to be European, and eccentric to boot. "Listen to the bird, she is saying: Peace on earth....peace on earth." He constantly quotes critics but is frustratingly parsimonious with his own impressions. He distastefully describes a real life rape while the fictional one is playing out but if this tragedy motivated him to make the picture then he should elaborate. We are left hanging as to his real motives. When he quoted 'hell hath no fury', he drew unflattering comparisons with Criswell in 'Plan 9'. There is an enigmatic moment when Jennifer types after the rape. Not a peep from the director on this. Zarchi's observations of male attitudes in the film are perceptive. The guy with the axe almost hiding in fear of Jennifer at the climax. The constant references to their mothers and calling on them in crisis. Many men will recognise themselves in these attitudes and excuses so I'm not surprised to see such fervent condemnation of 'Grave', but from the director, we get less than the dicky bird he is so fond of quoting. He appears to side with the poetic aspect, but he left me feeling puzzled and uncomfortable.
Briggs: Appears puzzled by the plot. Why didn't the men go in the house with matthew? Not difficult, if they want Matthew to be the fall guy, then they can't be in the same room when he's committing murder. Briggs considers the wife by the pumps scene superfluous. Surely this is one of the most telling moments in the film? I don't agree with his assertion that men shouting mysogynistic comments during theatrical performances of 'Grave' don't really mean it. It just proves to me the film was accurate in it's observations. Get it out in the open, I say. Perhaps Biggs sees the film as a lampoon, four burly men never really standing a chance against a smart cosmopolitan women from New York. Either way, I found his commentary to be largely superfluous.
on July 21, 2003
This is not a pullpit. This is not a soundoff for people with issues telling me to be horrified for being a part of the male species that commits the crimes depicted in this movie. Yes, sadly, some poor maligned soul actually wrote as much in one of the reviews here. This is a review of a horror movie. On to the review then shall we?
This is a somewhat disturbing film in that rape, for most, is a disturbing subject. As a graphic,. bloody horror movie, its pretty ordinary. The personal violence inflicted upon the main character, however, elevates the terror. A female writer decides to finish a book in a secluded cottage. Only its not so secluded. Close by is a small town inhabited by a bunch of red neck good old boys. They decide to savage the woman one day while she enjoys some time out boating. The scenes that follow are overly long and graphic. I'm sure the audience could have got the message with shorter and less revealing clips. Alas, the makers of this wanted to deliberatly create a stir. And so they have. They leave the woman for dead but she comes back and plots her revenge. The kill scenes are pretty lame. Nothing to creative here. A hanging. A stabbing. Creative use of boat propellers. but not enough of the red stuff. The killings are implied more than shown. Sometimes this works. In a movie like this, it doesnt. This is the kind of film that should run red in rivers. The movie spends to much time on the sodomy of the woman and doesnt know if its a horror pic or a drama. It tries to be both and fails.
on July 17, 2003
Surely you've heard the hype, but does this film live up to its reputation? Well that depends on whether you are expecting a sleazy trashy exploitation flick or a shocking cult classic.
Is it a good movie? By conventional standards like budget, dramatic acting, star power ect, this film is a dismal failure, a cheap exploitation flick nothing more many will tell you. Most people would read the title and just assume it's bad. But really this film is brilliantly directed, does it matter how much it cost to make? Is it still an exploitation flick when the director married the actress who is being 'exploited'? Why is it that films like this which use more naturalistic acting as opposed to dramatic acting are automatically classed as being poorly acted? Weren't the cast convincingly real especially Camille Keaton with her brave and harrowing performance? So what if everyone involved never went on to bigger projects or never appeared in any other films, this film will live in infamy forever and the stunningly beautiful Camille Keaton is already an immortal icon in cult horror. If it was better known under the more noble title "Day of the Woman" and not "I Spit on Your Grave" (which is about as campy as titles "Surf Nazis Must Die" and "Nude for Satan") would it be treated more seriously.
The real question isn't whether this is a good moive, but is this good cinema? Love it or hate it, how can you deny the power of a film that has such an effect on it's audience. The realism in the rape scenes, the lack of any musical score and voyeuristic yet artistic camera work deliver the kind of shear visceral power that big budget movies these days can only dream of possessing. So yes, this is undeniably spectacular cinema.
Why do people hate it? Roger Ebert would have you believe it's sick and pure garbage. However read his initial review and you will find he largely justifies his views by reactions from nonthinking audience members which he found appalling and not what was happening on screen. Still there is no shortage of people who call this film sick. Even more sad is how some people out there want to censor or ban this film (book burning religious zealots no doubt) just check, theres like two yahoo groups dedicated to this childish cause (pathetic though as they only have about a dozen members between them). This film is not made to be an enjoyable viewing experience, it pulls no punches, just because you don't like it does that mean it must be sick? Rape is a horrible crime, would it be more acceptable to portray it any other way?
What would posses someone to make such a film? Meir Zarchi wrote and directed the film after a real life encounter with a rape victim who he took to a police station (in retrospect he admits she should have gone to the hospital) and the cops were unsympathetic. This genuine horror he saw which existed in the real world which doesn't require werewolves or zombies, is the inspiration for the film. The revenge half of the film obviously an expression of the rage he felt at how the victim was treated, in the real world justice is rarely served. He uses in your face realism to get his message across. Just because his story is simple doesn't mean it's unintelligent. He dodges the one dimensional rapist stereotypes seen in other movies early on by humanising them with crude but still humorous personalities, one even has a family, the message: villains are real people too not comic book characters. One rapist while pleading pathetically tells Jennifer she asked for it by he way she walks and dresses, a damning criticism of some real life attitudes which state women are themselves to blame if they are attacked. The sequence of Jennifer after the attack is brilliant in displaying the traumatic detachment and loss of self suffered by real victims. It's the inclusion and excellent handling of the small details that elevate this movie beyond its low budget limits.
Why would anybody like this film? I personally admire powerful films, films that are unique whether they are shocking or thought provoking. One reviewer complained that the violence wasn't disturbing in comparison to some other films, hey if you have seen Dead/Alive like you claim (although I own and prefer the uncut version called Braindead) then you must know that the most goriest movie ever is a comedy. The gore isn't the real focus of this film anyway. I own uncut copies of Cannibal Holocaust, Men Behind the Sun, Cannibal Ferox, Anthropophagous, Flowers of Flesh and Blood and just about every notorious gore film out there. The only gore films more disturbing than ISOYG are Cannibal Holocaust and Men Behind the Sun, simply because like ISOYG these films are made by talented directors. Besides how could any amount of gore be disturbing when you want Jennifer to carry out her vendetta?
So does it live up to the hype? This film is something you experience not just another movie. It's definitely a well deserved cult classic and one of the original cornerstones of the video nasties. While the more jaded viewer might not find it as disturbing as some, this is still a film you won't soon forget. The Millennium Edition DVD is outstanding, the film has never looked better and you get two excellent commentary tracks. It's a shame they didn't get any input from Camille Keaton when putting the extras together on this DVD, but you can't have it all I guess. I wish I lived in the USA so I could go to a horror convention and ask Camille Keaton for her autograph.
Final thoughts? This is a challenging and outstanding cult masterpiece, it's a shame that this genuinely great piece of cinema is so universally misunderstood and under-rated.
on May 7, 2003
Much has been made of this movie for all it's violence and sadisam, but when all of the hype is out of the way this is just a bad film.
The movie is about a women who travels into the woods to stay at a house on a lake is attacked and brutally beaten and raped by four men. After they leave her for dead she recovers and comes back to get her revenge.
The movie is just a revenge movie plain and simple but that style of movie has been done befor and with much better results than this one.
One thing I will give the film is that the four men never at any time feel anything for the four men becouse we saw what awful things they did. However it's just an excuse to show sickness in all it's glory. Compared to some movies this sick film is not one of the worst in violence (remember though i'm talking about movies like Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie, and Dead Alive) but for it's time it must have been very shocking.
I Spit never lives up to the hype. Roger Ebert said this was the one film he hated and I must agree with him on that point.
on March 19, 2003
I get a chuckle out of many people's reaction to this movie, as opposed to Deliverance. While Deliverance had a higher budget and better acting, the plot is roughly the same - out of towner is raped by some yocals, who then pay for their crime with their lives through an act of revenge.
In this movie, viewers are more shocked that a woman is raped instead of a man. Anyone who has seen Deliverance will forever remember the words, "Squeal like a pig." Viewers of I Spit On Your Grave are not treated to the same physiological thrills; only, raw and brutal images.
I found the low-budget flick very refreshing from the usual Hollywood glitz and horror film cookie-cutter format. The plot was no worse off than, say, Friday the 13th for example. And, it was so unusual to see an abundance of gratuitous sex and violence in an American film.
Worthy of note - this film has been banned in several countries, including the UK, while Deliverance received no more than an R (18) Rating. I take this to mean that it's more socially acceptable to rape a man than a woman.
Aside from all the controversy, sex, and violence, I put it on par with Pink Flamingos. You don't need a billion dollar budget to tell a story or make a good shocker film.
on March 12, 2003
One of the most controversial and notorious movies to come out from the 1970's was Meir Zarchi's I Spit On Your Grave. Jennifer Hill, a New York writer, decides to go to a cabin in the country to finish her novel. Much of the plot is already given out on the back of the video box. She is sunbathing in her boat out in the lake when two locals in a motorboat, the blond Andy and dark-haired Stanley, lasso her boat to the shore and chase her through the woods. They are joined by two of their friends, Johnny, the local gas station attendant, and Matthew, the nerdy-looking half-retarded grocery delivery man who has a crush on her. She is stripped, raped and beaten bloody three times, twice in the woods, once in her cabin. Having survived this traumatic ordeal, she gets a well-deserved revenge on all four of them.
The way Jennifer is attacked and chased is the way one would treat a hunted animal, especially as Andy and Stanley yell like rednecks in heat, adding to the fear she felt. Hunting is probably one of the pastimes country hicks like them enjoy, and to them, she is no different from any deer.
There are some issues still relevant today. One is the motivation of the men who attacked Jennifer. Johnny thinks she was asking for it, as she showed up at the gas station walking back and forth in her summer dress, showing off her legs, and later, when she was in her bathing suit. This is the "she's asking for it" defense. In fact when he and his friends are out fishing at night, he says that women from the city come to the country for one thing...sex. While I far from condone rape, there is something to be said for Jennifer's cut-offs and other revealing clothes. Perhaps the men felt exploited, being turned on like that. It's the same argument used in selling adult magazines and videos: doesn't it exploit men as well, since they are the target market and they have to pay for it? Similarly, I'm not advocating that women wear chadors as in Iran or burqas in Afghanistan, but something more middle-of-the-road.
This was also the time that most women did not report rape because of the ensuing humiliation of a police investigation and the myth that it was her fault--hence her taking the law into her own hands. The attacks on Jennifer are unflinchingly graphic and unsettling, which may lead many to believe that the film glorified rape, but in fact, the brutality of it serves to justify her revenge.
Camille Keaton pulls in an ace performance as Jennifer in an agonizing role. Her slight resemblance to Tori Amos reminded me of how the latter was assaulted as well.
Apart from the ordeal and the revenge, much of the remainder are lulls in the drama, such as the scene at the camp sight and diner. The only other thing I quibble is the title. Surely, the original Day Of The Woman would have been better?
on March 2, 2003
First off I do consider 'I Spit On Your Grave' aka-'Day Of The Woman' which I do actually prefere as the title, a cult classic. Some may just happen to hire and view the film by chance and laugh through it at some of the rapes and especially Jennifer's revenge on each rapist, but what I see and understand with each viewing is that as I interpret it, that it has an important message throughout out it, and in each scene. I really like this film, and I know in saying that, that it can be confusing for other people to understand that especially if they don't like or deeply understand the film as I do. I think it's a important film out there in the world and that it really says something if analised and watching each performance carefully. The beautiful Camille Keaton did a wonderful,honest,brave, spellbinding, mesmerising job as Jennifer Hills.The other actors who played the rapists were very good in their roles and pulled it off convincinly. One day while watching 'I Spit', my brother watched some of it and commented that the actors who were the rapists were crap. I believe that, that wasn't the case, it was just that they did such a convincing job that it somehow does affect the viewer. 'I Spit': Millennium Edition is worth the buy, the 2 commentaries are very informative. The Joe Bob Briggs one is excellent and I learnt quiet a lot, The Meir Zarchi one is good and more informative about some of the behind the scenes stuff, and it's very interesting to hear Meir tell his sad tale about a real rape that happened which in spired him to write 'I Spit'. The only thing I was disappointed about was that there wasn't any cast interviews. But all in all a great buy.