Dave Harlequin’s RETRO-REVIEWS: Issue #2 – ‘I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE’ (1978)

During the late 1970’s, exploitation cinema was everywhere; these films were usually low budget, and almost always focused on shocking audiences with controversial and/or disturbing topics. Of course as times changed, so did what the public deemed “shocking” and so most of these films either became cult-classics for audiences to simply make fun of, or were forgotten altogether. However, regardless of the era, some things are simply far too horrific to ever fail to be shocking or disturbing; hence even nearly 40 years after the film’s release, Meir Zarchi‘s horror classic “I Spit On Your Grave” remains one of the most controversial and talked about films of all time.

I Spit On Your Grave
Original “I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE” promotional poster.

Originally released as Day of the WomanI Spit On Your Grave is a rape/revenge film that makes Deliverance look like a Saturday morning cartoon. The film is very graphic in nature and contains notorious moments where the lead character, Jennifer Hills (played by the legendary Camille Keaton) is viciously attacked and brutally raped for nearly the entire first half hour. These horrific scenes are surely the source of the film´s original controversy and with very good reason. This film takes every single opportunity to unsettle its viewer, and is easily one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen. The overtly graphic scenes of violent sexual abuse are enough to turn the stomach and rattle the nerves of even the most well-seasoned shock-cinema veteran.

Camille Keaton in “I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE” (1978 – fair use)

Those that made it through the first horrifying half hour are rewarded by the backlash of the left-for-dead heroine. Jennifer’s revenge is quite brutal and she devises an interesting scheme to murder each of the four men who attacked her. The most vicious and entertaining demise is easily the one where she seduces one of the rapists and proceeds to amputate the same body part that caused all her suffering. While these revenge scenes do leave some things to the imagination and aren’t quite as graphic as they were considered in 1978, they’re still very violent, very bloody and help the film achieve its goal of continually disturbing its audience. It’s pretty safe to assume that even today, every man watching that particular scene still clamps his legs shut and cringes when viewing the infamous bathtub castration.

In the age of the remake, it’s no surprise that I Spit On Your Grave has already been remade. CineTel Films acquired the rights and released the remake around Halloween 2010, with distribution by Anchor Bay Entertainment. I haven’t seen this remake, so whether or not it has anywhere near the same impact and controversy as the original is unknown to me – but with an R-Rating and the knowledge of other, similar remakes; I personally wouldn’t count on it. Then again, I could be wrong. Can’t really judge something I haven’t seen, so I can only fairly speak on the original. I do know that, at least among horror fans and serious cinemaphiles, the 2010 remake wasn’t popular at all. (Anyone got a copy of this remake? Feel free to contact me, send me one, and what the hell… I’ll review that one too. But again, I don’t expect to be wowed or anything.)

The Bottom Line:
Overall, 1978’s “I Spit On Your Grave” is not a perfect film, but it delivers. Director Meir Zarchi provides us with a true cinematic train-wreck. While the acting, camerawork and general plot are certainly below average; the film never strives to be anything more than what it is – a shocking, disturbing, exploitation flick showcasing the brutality of rape and forcing viewers to deal with this very real issue, while outright asking them: “what would you do?”  Perhaps the only thing not shocking is that this film is still being talked about to this day. Much like any train wreck, for some reason, no matter how horrific it is – we just can’t look away! All things considered, it’s still very much a must-see for any horror fan… just make sure you prepare yourself before popping this one in the old DVD/BluRay player.


-Dave Harlequin
Editor: Nerd Nation Magazine

1 Comment

  1. I always tell people it’s not a movie I recommend, but it is a movie you need to see.

    I also recommend watching the bluray with the commentary from Joe Bob Briggs.



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