Wednesday, 11 February 2015

I Spit On Your Grave

Title: I Spit On Your Grave
Director: Meir Zarchi
Released: 1978
Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann

Plot: Escaping to the countryside to finish her novel, writer Jennifer (Keaton) soon finds herself the attracting unwanted attention from a group of local men, which soon leads to her being raped and left for death. However Jennifer survives the attack and soon begins to plot her revenge on the men responsible.


Review: A film whose legacy more than precedes it, the films originally released under the title “Day of the Woman” aswell as being shown under the more colourful “I hate Your Guts” and “The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill” with the film only receiving its current title when the film was re-released in 1980. The film would only increase in notoriety when it was banned in the UK as part of the DDP list of “Video Nasties”, the unintentional side effect of which being that it created a watchlist for genre fans even though the majority of  films named would have no doubt been forgotten over time instead received a boost in popularity. At the time of writing ten films on the list remain banned due to either being refused classification or because they are yet to be resubmitted by their relevant distributors. Sadly this would not be the fate for this film which despite still not being released uncut it remains banned in Ireland but here in the UK even after cuts this still remains a grotesque and disturbing piece of celluloid trash.

Reportedly based on the director helping along with his friends a girl who he found to have been raped and the subsequent mishandling of the case by the police when they attempted to report it, the film is one of his two directing credits with the other being the little seen “Don’t Mess with My Sister” while he has returned to produce the two remakes that this film somehow has spawned which I can assume is more to do with its legacy than anything to do with its actual content. The original however was shot for cheap on a budget of $650,000 meaning that the film is unquestionably grimy while devoid of any kind of soundtrack which seemingly was more due to Zarchi not being able to find any music which would suit the film. This does however have the effect of increasing the intensity of the film, something the equally notorious “Last House on the Left” lost thanks to the inappropriate inclusion of bluegrass music during its comedic “Chickens” scene. As a result the film is largely silent bar background noise which is strangely eerier and only adds to the nastiness of the rape and abuse scenes as you’re forced to hear everything providing no escape from what you’re being forced to witness.

When we first meet Jennifer she is just a nice city girl with aspirations of finishing her novel and even though she is amused by the antics of the backwoods locals, including two of her soon to be attackers which we see playing the classic knife game split the kipper she is not rude or judgemental about their ways. As such the reason for them choosing to attack her for reasons outside of her being an attractive woman on her own is unclear. As a result of any kind of explanation for the groups actions it results in the tone of the film being far sleazier than it would have been had we actually been given some kind of reasoning.

While the film does have its moments of excessive violence, it is the rape scenes which is the hardest thing to stomach which even members of the crew found the filming of tough with one crew member quitting during the second of the three rape scenes, while the make-up artist who herself has been the victim of a gang rape attack also quit the film as she found the shoot too much like reliving the traumatic events. The male cast members to show their support for Keaton also requested to be naked, especially when she spends a lot of the film naked which really isn’t as titillating as it sounds as this is anything but fun nudity here. Keaton meanwhile had no problem with the nudity aspects of the film and was actually more concerned with the scenes involving her walking barefoot through the woods.

The kills are all creative as Jennifer despatches the group in a number of sadistic but highly justified ways including a hanging and creative use of an outboard motor. The also features the much discussed castration which interestingly would be uncensored for the Australian release of the film as the Australian censors don’t see castration as sexual violence which would have seen the film banned under Australian censorship laws. While the kills are all justifiably brutal, the film by this point has left such a bad taste in your mouth with what it has forced you to watch already, that if your still watching it is more a test of endurance that it makes it hard to get overly excited about them.

 I can’t help but feel that had Zarchi restrained himself to a sole effectively shot instead rather than the exploitive and voyeuristic style which he chooses for the film, let alone the fact that he chooses to include three rape scenes, which if we are to believe IMDB clocks in around 25 minutes which really is beyond excessive. Again if these scene had been handled effectively and focused more on Jennifer plotting and carrying out her revenge this would have been a stronger film, rather than feeling like a questionable idea stretched out to excess.

On one hand the film makes for an interesting argument on censorship, as had the film not been banned as a video nasty would we still be talking about it now or would it now be just another lost exploitation movie? Equally would this film have lead to the current wave of torture porn horror films being released sooner? What remains true though it that this is truly a disturbing and haunting film in only all the worst ways. Approach with caution.

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