aka: Day of the Woman, Blood Angel, The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hills
Director: Meir Zarchi
Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann
This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition… but no jury in America would ever convict her!
The 70’s where brutal! Movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left came and changed the tone of horror cinema from being colorful and more classy in the 60’s to becoming more realistic, violent and grim. Hundreds or probably thousands of exploitation movies where victims where tortured, raped and/or slaughtered emerged. I Spit on Your Grave is one of the most famous brutal movie there is. Film critic Roger Ebert called it «a vile bag of garbage» and it has been banned in several countries including my very own Norway. So does it deserve its hype? Does it still hold up nearly 35 years after shocking the cinematic world?
Jennifer Hills, a promising and young author from New York, rents a lakeside house next to a small town to get peace and quiet so she can finish her novel. While enjoying herself out on the lake one day, she gets harassed and eventually attacked by four local psychopaths and they end up gang raping her repeatedly and humiliating her in any way they can. After they are done with her they leave the task of killing her off to Matthew, who is mentally challenge. He is unable to murder her and leaves her laying in her own blood instead. While recuperating for a few weeks, Jennifer plans how she will take revenge on the men who changed her life forever.
Camille Keaton (What Have You Done To Solange, Savage Vengeance) does a great job as Jennifer. It’s hard to watch such a sweet and loveable girl being tortured in over forty minutes straight and Keaton deserves a lot of credit for doing this film. The raping madmen however are more typical evil rednecks. Their leader Johnny (Eron Tabor) has some resemblance of David Hess, Matthew the retarded one (Richard Pace) goes over the top with his performance and the two that are left, Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann) is indistinguishable. This movie isn’t really about the bad guys anyway since we experience the entire story through Jennifer.
Director Meir Zarchi either chose, or more likely had no option to make this simplistic and stripped of all savy movie tricks and just make this a straight forward, stripped to the bone movie. There’s not any music in it (if it was then I didn’t notice) and that just adds to the grim realism of the movie. The rape scenes is done so vicious that it will be hard for a lot of people to sit through it. We experience it through the eyes of the victim, which is unusual. The more common way is to show the excitement of the rapist instead of the agony of the victim in these type of movies.
The last few times I’ve watched I Spit on Your Grave I’ve started to wonder about the idea that maybe Jennifer did get killed and the revenge never happened. What if the revenge is only there for us, the viewers? Some debate if the movie is a feminist or if it’s misogynistic. If my theory is accurate then neither of those two labels would fit. If the revenge didn’t really happened then what we are left with is a realistic display of human cruelty and what an atrocity gang rape really is. The revenge part could be there to please the viewers so even though Jennifer suffered, at least we get to see the bad guys suffer aswell. However, I do not believe others, including Meir Zarchi himself, would agree with me on this view, but movies are to be interpreted by each person and I think this is a plausible explanation of the movie. It would be interesting to see the movie without the revenge part however, it sure would turn a mean movie into something even meaner and evil.
I Spit on Your Grave is still a powerful and extremely brutal movie that few will want to sit through. I recommend it simply because it is not a movie that you will feel indifferent to. Either you will think it’s a great movie or you will despise it and hate it. Regardless of which side you end up on, there’s no denying that this is an interesting movie with an important history regarding censorship in horror/exploitation movies.
Regardless of how many times I’ve watched this movie it still manages to get me uneasy. It deserves the hype and it is still as gruesome 30+ years later.