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I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

by Tom Baker 2 months ago in movie review / vintage
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A Review

I Spit on Your Grave is one of the most sickening, artless pieces of cinematic excrement ever shat from the bowels of a low-budget exploitation producer. Totally and completely without any real merit, it plays like a cop show recreation of an actual crime--albeit unlikely events, but, in this crazy world, one supposes anything is possible.

The plot is very simple. A sophisticated woman writer (Camille Keaton, incidentally the great-niece of famed silent film star Buster Keaton) goes for some seclusion to a cabin in upstate New York. Along the way, she meets some local yahoos who leer at her and plot and a mentally handicapped man on a bike who seems rather guileless but is easily led by the townie scum.

S he goes to her little cabin. The mentally impaired man delivers groceries. She sunbathes. The yahoos come by in a motor boat. They harass her and then proceed to rape her. She escapes, and, like some fever dream of Sade's, they catch her and rape her again. She crawls home, battered and bloodied and wounded, and there they rape her, brutally, one more time. They encourage the mentally-challenged man to rape her, but he "can't come," and what we thought might be the one sympathetic character in the whole film, turns out to be just another sheep-like follower of the male cult of dominance and sexual aggression.

The woman plots revenge. She first goes to church, as if to expiate her guilt, and then captures each of her rapists unaware. She has her revenge, her "Day of the Woman," (n alternate title for the film), and the whole stark, ugly, and rather pointless drama comes to a close.

There are a few plot "points" that we might have glossed over: Matthew (Richard Pace) seemingly under the domination of the older gas jockey, is sent back to kill the rape victim. Matthew cannot bring himself to do this, and instead leaves blood rubbed on his knife, as "proof." Later, he will be beaten and cast aside by his circle of worthless "friends"; the bullies who abuse and manipulate him to do their bidding.

The rape scenes are intensely brutal and misogynistic. The film verges on softcore porn but is too sadistic to fulfill the needs of that particular demographic. Camille Katon spends much of the film nude and bloodied, bruised; her story he has come here to write is mocked by the rapist ogres in her home. One of them climbs on top of her face after viciously beating her, commanding her to "Suck it! Bitch."

There is no characterization here, no feeling of any depth of any of these variant personalities, save for the mentally-challenged Matthew, who is at once pathetic, sympathetic, and atrocious. He's so eager for human companionship he'll suffer the indignities of being the "token dummy" to the local creeps.

K Keaton's performance is detached, cold, and distant--very astute, for someone who has suffered such shock and trauma. She goes to a church, an empty one, and genuflects before a cross, begging the forgiveness of God before she enacts her revenge.

The naked, pig-like male fantasies that fueled the rape are turned about as, one by one (by rope, butcher knife, castration, and decapitation by an outboard motor), the male pigs are dispatched to their eternal hells. They crossed the line and ventured into the barbarism and the animalism at the core of their being--those sickening and bestial urges society tries so hard to tamper down and temper, to wean from the child and subsume under social shame, guilt, and religious indoctrination--if such children are ever to be "productive" members of a functioning society. You can argue how successful we are at this, given the teeming prison population and the amount of random, senseless violence, how successful we are, but this is the idea of the social conditioning we undergo from birth.

But this doesn't work for everyone.

The Gas Jockey, ("Stanley", played by Anthony Nichols), tells Camille Keaton, "Michael saw a half of your tits[...]you got out of the car and were parading your legs." Those aren't exact quotes, but it shows the mentality of someone who wishes to shift responsibility for an antisocial act, particularly rape, onto the victim. "She asked for it," or "she was leading me on," are common excuses rapists have used and continue to use to justify their brutality. They blame the woman, because, otherwise it would be too hard to look at their inferiority as complete human beings.

Later, his hellcat of a wife (Alexis Magnotti) appears, wondering where her husband has disappeared to. His children are sitting on the curb in front of his filling station as she beats the other two rapists, the "bums" her husband chooses to hang around. It is an interesting scene, in that it is the only one that diverges from the rest of the film. Did she not suspect her husband could rape and even be a party to murder? How long had she been deceived by her "loyal" man?

I Spit on Your Grave is as notoriously ugly as they come. It is not a film that will leave anyone with any happy feelings. Director Meir Zarchi created a piece of sickening, grindhouse offal that has nothing in the way of humanity except a cold, brutal, and calculated desire for sadism and revenge. I've heard the film described as "anti-woman." It may be that. Alternately, some see the revenge enacted by Camille Keaton as ultimately a message of feminist empowerment. I'm no professor of sexual politics, so I'll leave the discerning viewer to decide. If they do decide.

movie reviewvintage

About the author

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis , Indiana Ghost Folklore, , Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest : http://tombakerbooks.weebly.com

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