7/23/09

Ladies Night Presents: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

It's time to turn the Lair over to the Ladies once again, and this month I picked out quite the film for them. It will be no easy task for the Ladies to take a long look at this one, but I have all faith they can handle it. So without further ado, I give you the Ladies and their review of.....

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) Directed by: Meir Zarchi. Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tobar, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols and Guner Kleeman

Jennifer Hills(Keaton) is an aspiring novelist. She rents a summer house on the lake in Connecticut in hopes to finish her latest manuscript. As she gets to town, she meets Johnny(Tobar), the gas station attendant, and Andy(Kleeman), the mentally challenged grocery boy. At first ,things seem nice, but she soon learns that Johnny, Andy, and their friends Mathew(Pace) and Stanley(Nichols) have other plans.

Jennifer is relaxing in a canoe on the lake, when Mathew and Stanley show up. They use their motor boat to rock Jennifer’s canoe, then they grab it’s tow rope. They drag her to a secluded, wooded area, where they meet up with Johnny and Andy. The four men spend the afternoon brutally raping Jennifer.

Thinking that her ordeal was over, Jennifer crawls through the woods back to her house. As she arrives, she realizes that the men are waiting for her. They continue to rape and taunt her and rip up her manuscript. When they are done with her, they leave Andy behind to finish her off. Andy cannot kill her, but he makes the others believe that he got the job done.

Jennifer takes some time to heal, and to piece her novel back together. She then sets out to seek revenge.


TIDBITS

--I Spit On Your Grave is one of England’s infamous “Video nasties”. Roger Ebert also declared it one of the worst movies he has ever seen. It’s main claim to fame is having the longest gang rape scenes on film.

--Camille Keaton is the grandniece of Buster Keaton. She was also married to, and divorced from director Meir Zarchi. She also starred in the 1993 film
Savage Vengance a.k.a. I Spit On Your Grave 2.


Let me get this out of the way. I did not think this was the worst movie ever made by any means no matter what Roger Ebert claimed. However, it sure ain’t the best. The first thing that struck me when the film started was the lack of a soundtrack. The long shots out of the car widow as Jennifer drove to her summer house in silence gave the movie a realistic feel which I actually liked. This continues into the movie as the characters developed, and as Jennifer’s rapists start to stalk her, the silence leads to a tension all women can relate to.

As the rape occurs, the four men are revealed as personification of the worst facets of men. The leader is an overly dominant man with repressed homosexual tendency. The retarded boy is impotent, the dark haired fellow is a sadist, and the forth dude is merely a conformist. This is a good time to mention there are no redeeming men in this film. The only other man I recall even seeing was a butcher cutting apart what looks like a lamb. While it is nice to not have a man come in and save the trembling woman, it would be a comfort to know a man could say “hi” to this girl without brutally raping her.

As I was watching the 30 minutes of rape, a couple of things struck me. First, it was “Wow, this is bad.” Then as it progressed, “Wow, this is long“. Then I started feeling like “Okay, I don’t have all day here“. At the point Jennifer made it back to the house to call for help and the attack was still was not over, the rape started to cross the line a bit. Is this a “how to” video? In the end, it went on so long that it lost most of it shock value.

So after seeing all that, as a viewer, I was staying with the movie for the payback. I want justice for this woman. I want this entire town to rise up with pitch fork and torches. I want the state to pass a law that all rapists will be burned alive, with a grandfather clause. Then the whole town gets together to make pervert S’mores. Saving that, I want this woman to rain down fury and violence to make these men scream out an opera of pain. I want Jennifer to develop a passion for seeing torture that would make Mel Gibson go, “that’s not cool“. Instead, here’s what I get. The first hung, the second has his penis cut off, and the last two deaths kind of felt like they were running out of film stock so they went for a cheap two-fer. I really wanted Jennifer’s enjoyment of the violence to match the rapists, but I just don’t feel that it did.

Now a lot can be said of the symbolism in I Spit on Your Grave, but if it was intentional or the product of archetypes entrenched in history is hard to say. The female goddess of fertility and death are often one in the same in many tribal religions, the Celtic goddess Morgana being one example. The first vengeance killing seen has Jennifer meeting her victim in the woods while dressed in a druidic white flowing robe. Then before stringing him up she seduces him. It made Jennifer’s sexuality into her own weapon, and I give the movie a point for that. There’s a million of these little things I picked up on, but that does not make it a good movie. All symbolism does is reinforce something already known.

It was nice the movie addressed the “it’s her fault” mentality associated with rape. All of the excuses given by the rapists exposes them to the audience, stripping away their humanity. This movie does not glorify the rapists, that’s for sure. These four guys embody stupidity from beginning to end. They are over exaggerated to make the male portion of the audience see how ugly and buffoonish men can be at their very worst. Jennifer, in comparison, is designed to be the character people identify with. Unless you are a douche nozzle, you don’t look at this film and think rape is the way to go.

Putting aside all the controversy, this is the bottom line. The first part of the movie is drama; the last half is Grindhouse. A drama needs to convince me, a grind house film needs to dazzle me, and for me this film achieved neither.


Grave Rating


I enjoyed I Spit On Your Grave. I thought it was well done and had a very real feel to it. This is partly from the camera work, and the fact that there are not very many characters in the story. The few we do meet are rapists( with the exception of Johnny’s wife ). There is also very little soundtrack. Only two scenes have a score. I felt that these were the most powerful scenes. Maybe this was because the sudden music made them stand out from the rest of the film. There was some harmonica in the rape scene. I don’t consider this part of the soundtrack because Mathew was playing it to taunt Jennifer, and not for aesthetic feel.

I Spit On Your Grave is a film that has certainly made a name for itself. With it’s gang-rape scene clocking in at about 30 minutes, I can see why it made the Video Nasty list. I was not offended or traumatized by the scene. However, I do think that 15 or 20 minutes of gang-rape would have been just as effective, but perhaps the audience is supposed to be just as exhausted as the victim.

This was not a bad film. It was not a good film. But it was above average. It had a point to make, and it did so effectively. Personally, I think my rape/revenge money was better spent with
Thriller: A Cruel Tale or Last House On The Left. I do like this film. I’ve seen it twice, but it is not at the top of my suggestions list.

Grave Rating

2 comments:

  1. Yeah this film isn't one to entertain the children. Or most adults. Hell, I can't even say that I enjoyed it. But it's highly effective and it works almost perfectly at its intention. Yeah, the rape scene may drag out, but I honestly believe that was the point of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. You're supposed to feel exhausted watching this because it makes what happens next that much more satisfying to the viewer. And yes, I was satisfied at the end and I'm a dude.

    Worst film ever made? Not even close.

    Most uncomfortable? Probably.

    Great write up, ladies!

    ReplyDelete
  2. For film quality, I feel that this film is the most technically proficient of the rape-revenge movies, and it is my personal favorite although I enjoy all three. I dont know what it is that I really enjoy about the film, but it feels more like a Greek tragedy to me than a straight Exploitation film. Still.. Its hard to top an eye patch and a sawed off..

    ReplyDelete

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