Thursday, September 1, 2011

#391. I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

Directed By: Meir Zarchi

Starring: Camille Keaton, Erin Tabor, Richard Pace

Tag line: "The Ultimate Day of Terror!"

Trivia:  Film critic Roger Ebert has often called this film the worst ever made

Upon its release, I Spit On Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman) was immediately banned in Iceland, Norway and West Germany for glorifying violence against women. But government officials weren't the only ones to jump all over this movie; in his review, noted film critic Roger Ebert lambasted I Spit On Your Grave, going so far as to say it was the worst movie ever made, and that seeing it was “one of the most depressing experiences” of his life. This was actually my first viewing of the film, and I admit I was anxious to see if it would live up to it's notorious reputation. Is it really as disturbing as all that? 

Yes, it is. It truly is. 

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton), a writer living in New York City, is looking to complete her first novel, and for a little peace and quiet, she rents a spacious house in the country. But unfortunately, neither "peace" nor "quiet" are in Jennifer's future. On her way into town, she attracts the attention of four local thugs, including a mentally backward delivery boy named Matthew (Richard Pace), and they take an immediate liking to their new neighbor. In fact, the four become so enamored with her that, one afternoon, they drag Jennifer into the woods and repeatedly rape her. Following the vicious assaults, the leader of the bunch, a gas station attendant named Johnny (Eron Tabor), tries to convince Matthew to finish Jennifer off by stabbing her in the heart, which Matthew is unable to do. Traumatized and bloody, but still very much alive, Jennifer sets into motion a plan by which she'll exact her revenge, ensuring her attackers will never hurt another woman again

The first 14 minutes or so of I Spit On Your Grave are deceptively serene, with scenes of Jennifer arriving at her new country home and settling in. Then the attack begins, and what makes it all the more troubling is how suddenly it occurs, and how quickly it escalates. The camera spends a great deal of time observing the numerous assaults, with no music whatsoever, dramatic or otherwise, playing over them, ensuring a level of realism that will undoubtedly cause a good many people to squirm uncomfortably in their seats. I myself was having a tough time watching the first rape, but had to pause the DVD during the second one due to Ms. Keaton's screams, which were blood-curdling. I didn't time how long the assaults lasted, but they seemed to go on forever. 

Meir Zarchi, the writer/director of I Spit On Your Grave, has stated in a number of interviews that he drew inspiration from an actual event, where he personally assisted a young woman who was raped in New York City. The realistic feel of the attack on Jennifer undoubtedly sprang from this experience, though that doesn't make it any easier to sit through. I certainly can't fault others for having such a strong negative reaction to the film; I myself may never revisit it again. But I feel the accusation that I Spit On Your Grave has no redeeming qualities whatsoever is unfounded. 

Yes, the rapes are distressing and difficult to watch, but if the director's aim was to show how awful such assaults can be, then mission accomplished.

1 comment:

Terr Rawling said...

Seems like the movies the critics hate the most I end falling in love with.