Today: February 26, 2024

I Spit On Your Grave

The best example of the depths filmmakers will go to in order to shock and offend.

In the 1980s the video nasty was almost something to aspire to for
some filmmakers. Films of such a deplorable nature that they were deemed
unfit to be rated by certificates of the time. In many ways the idea of
the video nasty backfired, raising the profile of films like Last House On The Left (1972), Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and The Driller Killer
(1979) to such levels that people would actively seek them out by any
means necessary. They represented the definition of exploitation cinema.
I Spit On Your Grave became, along with Last House On The Left,
one of the most talked about video nasties. It exploits concepts of
sexual psychology to levels that have lead many critics to label it the most revolting film of all time. But, is it worthy of all the disgust and hype it has received over the years?

Jennifer (Hills) is a writer who goes to a secluded house in
order to finish her first novel. While there she attracts the attention
of a group of men, including mentality handicapped Matthew (Pace),
who begin to intrude on her self-imposed tranquil existence. One day,
the men gang rape her, leave her alone, rape her some more and then
leave her for dead. Surviving the ordeal Jennifer begins to plot her
bloody revenge and will stop at nothing until her assailants are
brutality dispatched.

It is crucial to point out that the original title for I Spit On Your
Grave was Day Of The Woman. According to writer-director Meir Zarchi
the intent was to make a film as a response to a time he found and aided
a rape victim. His aim, therefore, with the film, was to give a
feminist slant on the revenge genre. Based on this evidence, Zarchi’s
aims were never to offend or exploit. However, it is hard to see this
when watching the film.

It is one thing to show rape on film, it is of course by its very
nature going to create discomfort in an audience. For instance Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (2002)
presents a rape sequence to vomit inducing levels. There is a crucial
difference though, Noe’s scene is there to make you feel for the victim
to evoke an emotion of hatred so as to justify the later events on the
film. The same cannot be said of Zarchi’s rape sequence. For one thing
it lasts for close to 40 minutes, an unnecessary running time to demand
hatred for the men involved. Zarchi shoots it in such a rudimentary
manner that it starts to feel like a snuff film. Just when you
think it is over the men return for more and in the process force
Matthew to get involved. They are painted as animalistic while Jennifer
is left as nothing more than an empty vessel being used.

The horrific scenes would have benefitted with previous character
development. We are never given the chance to know Jennifer, she is
simply an attractive woman who is victim to the most horrendous of
crimes. Indeed, the pacing is so off that at times the film is dull. It
never attempts to even build suspense. Even Jennifer’s revenge is over
all too quickly. A scene in which she goes to church to ask God to
forgive her for what she is about to do feels contrived and utterly
pointless. Furthermore a feminist reading of the film would surely point
out that Jennifer has to use her sexuality to lure then men to their
deaths as a negative point.

As Jennifer, Camille Keaton, the granddaughter of Buster Keaton,
must be applauded for her bravery in taking on such a role. The script
gives her little opportunity to shine but as she begins her revenge
there is a deeply unsettling menace that appears in her eyes. Pace plays
the mentally handicapped Matthew like a reject from The Three Stooges
and as such feels more comical then was surely intended. The rest of the
group of men are nothing more than ape like thugs. Eron Tabor as the
leader of the gang manages find the time to almost become human towards
the end.

Thanks to the success of the recent Last House On The Left remake an
updated I Spit On Your Grave is due to be released imminently. It is no longer the shocking piece of cinema that it once was but I Spit On Your Grave is still a cinematic experience to be entered into with great trepidation.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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