31 Screams in October, Vol. 3, #25: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Posted: October 28, 2016 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , ,

25. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Director: Meir Zarchi

Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann

Sometimes… not very often, but sometimes… I come across a horror movie so notorious that I question whether or not I should actually review it. I’m into exploring as many horror movies with infamous reputations as I think I can stomach. But I recognize that not everyone feels the same way. For this very reason, I held back on discussing 1978’s “I Spit on Your Grave”… a brutal story of rape/revenge… for at least a year, if not two. Originally titled “Day of the Woman,” “I Spit on Your Grave” is notorious for its scenes of graphic violence, both inflicted upon and carried out by its protagonist. How we react to said violence says as much about us and our notions of right and wrong as it does about the film itself.

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) is an aspiring writer from New York who has chosen to spend some time at a secluded cabin in Connecticut in order to work on her first novel. The long-haired, free-spirited young woman comes into contact with gas station attendant Johnny (Eron Tabor) and his unemployed friends Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann). After hearing from Matthew (Richard Pace), the mentally handicapped grocery store delivery boy, about a recent encounter with Jennifer (where Matthew says he “saw her breasts”), the men decide to take action. Stanley and Andy use their speedboat to harass Jennifer.

One afternoon, the men grab hold of Jennifer’s canoe while she is relaxing, and force her to shore where Johnny is lying in wait. The three men corner her, intending for Matthew to rape her… thus losing his virginity. Matthew declines, and so Johnny takes his place. Once the deed is done, Jennifer isn’t allowed to get very far before she’s cornered and raped a second time, by Andy. Nearly spent, Jennifer uses what remaining strength she has left to make it back to the cabin. Just about to call the authorities, Jennifer is stopped at the last second by the returning gang of thugs. She is raped a third time, first by Matthew (who says he can’t finish with the others watching) and then by Stanley. As they leave, they realize they can’t leave Jennifer alive, and they instruct Matthew to finish the job. He can’t bring himself to stab her, merely wiping blood from her cheek onto the knife as “proof.” The entire sequence runs about 32 minutes. If you’ve somehow managed make it this far into the movie, you may as well keep going to the end.

It takes a little time for Jennifer to gather herself together. In the meantime, the gang starts to grow concerned that no news of Jennifer’s supposed death has come up. It’s been days… weeks, even… and a body would start to stink up the woods like nothing else in that time. So, they go investigate. Sure enough, she’s not dead, and Matthew is beaten for his disobedience. That’s when Jennifer begins her plot for revenge. Oh brother, does she ever!

First, Jennifer orders from the grocery store. At first reluctant to make the delivery when he hears the address, Matthew rides his bike up to the cabin. Jennifer acts seductively, even allowing Matthew to have consensual sex with her out by the lake. Just as he climaxes, however, Jennifer ties a noose around his neck and hangs him from a tree. She next goes looking for Johnny at the gas station. At first holding him at gunpoint, Jennifer brings Johnny up to the cabin to give him a bath. While pleasuring him, Jennifer uses a knife (which Matthew had stolen from the grocery store) to… shall we say… separate Johnny from his best friend. As Johnny lay screaming and bleeding to death in the bathroom, Jennifer locks the door and goes downstairs to drown out the noise with classical music, later disposing of the evidence.

When Johnny doesn’t show up for work, his two remaining lackeys go up to the cabin in their speedboat in search of him. Andy goes ashore, armed with an axe. Stanley, still in the boat, is pushed out by an emerging Jennifer. Seeing this, Andy moves to attack but misses, and Jennifer gains control of the axe. As Andy tries to help Stanley, he is killed with the axe. Stanley then pleads for his life, but Jennifer (echoing words which Stanley had spoken to her) says, “Suck it, bitch!” and disembowels him with the boat’s motor.

It’s impossible to disguise the fact that “I Spit on Your Grave” is an unpleasant movie from beginning to end. There is no way for someone to call this movie entertaining and come out sounding sane. The acting is purely amateur hour. One positive I can legitimately draw from the movie is the almost total lack of music, allowing for zero distractions during the movie’s most serious scenes. Another would be this: While the promotional material touts that “no jury in the world would convict her,” there is a sense that perhaps we are not necessarily intended to cheer one form of violence over the other. Not that you aren’t allowed to. It is only a movie, after all.

  1. Josh Hammond says:

    I remember seeing the box for the VHS at a video store as a kid and KNOWING this was not a movie that should be displayed at six-year-old eye level. Your review convinced me that I never want to, but at least now I know what I’m missing.

  2. Sylvia Williams says:

    The lack of a sound track would make this movie grittier and more painful to watch/listen to.
    Horrible subject matter, but I can understand wanting to see for yourself why it was considered
    so notorious.

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