Camille Keaton as Jennifer - Brutalized and Ready for Revenge

I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – A Horrific Tale of Revenge


I Spit on Your Grave

I grew up in the age of video stores. In my town there was special store that was different from all others. In the horror section of the average video store you may find the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. You might even be able to find something as edgy as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

But, then there was Club Video. At Club Video get to the next level horror videos. We are talking Wizard Video and Gorgon Video. They had the films that were banned in 47 countries. They stocked Faces of Death and Cannibal Ferrox. Nestled among those sat a movie with the following tagline: “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition, BUT no jury in America would ever convict her”. This movie is the original 1978 I Spit on Your Grave.

Roger Ebert Does Not Like It

Described as a “Vile bag of garbage” by Roger Ebert, I Spit on Your Grave  has been named one of the worst movies ever. I respectfully disagree. While this movie is not everyone’s cup of chamomile tea with a dollop of environmentally sustainable honey, it is certainly a movie worth witnessing. I will warn, it isn’t an easy watch.

My Achilles Heel

Anyone that reads my work, knows that I have a particular weakness. Extreme sexual violence towards women bothers me greatly. I once turned off Monster because I couldn’t handle the rape scene. Said before, I watch women slaughtered at the hands of masked madmen and don’t even grimace. However, when the story turns to rape and sexual violence, the curtain of fantasy that protects my senses tumbles down. The exhibit turns far too real; thus becomes so very difficult to watch.

I recently detailed my apprehension of reviewing The Last House on the Left (2009) for this very reason. Accordingly, the thought of watching I Spit on Your Grave again makes me squirm.

The real horror of this film lies in the relentless assault on the main character Jennifer, played by Camille Keaton. Not a person in the theater that has ever loved a sister, mother or girlfriend would flinch at the revenge that she metes out. Consequently, this is the dynamic that makes this film worth watching. We are all capable of violence when we feel that it is justified.

I Spit on Your Grave - Eron Tabor as Johnny
Eron Tabor as Johnny

I Spit on Your Grave – Not a Story Driven Affair

In a reoccurring theme in the horror world, Spit on Your Grave wastes little time developing a plot. A young writer named Jennifer drives to a small town cottage in order to write a novel. On her way to the cabin, she meets Johnny the attendant, portrayed by Eron Tabor. He and his loser friends hang out at the gas station. The director, Meir Zarchi paints just enough of a picture to indicate that these guys will be a problem later.

She gets her gas and is on her way. When she pulls up to the cabin it is everything that she hoped for, a peaceful cabin on the river. Her surroundings are beautiful and lush and the cabin is quiet and cozy. In an obvious bit of foreshadowing, she finds a loaded pistol in a drawer. After settling in, she gets right to work on her novel.

The Soon to be No Longer Living Scumbags

The gang follows a standard character lineup. Johnny is the ring leader. Without him, the rest of the crew would struggle picking their own noses. Stanley is the silent psycho of the bunch. Andy, with his patriotic suspenders, just follows the others lead. Finally, there is Matthew. Matthew is the town idiot. At first he is seems to provide a moral compass, but ultimately proves that his morality is just cowardice in disguise.

Matthew - An Idiot and Scumbag
Matthew – An Idiot and Scumbag

A Tryptich of Brutality

The nonchalant way that these men stride down the path of a brutal assault is frightening. The assault begins long before they first lay hands on her. It starts with seemingly harmless shenanigans as the boys spin circles in their jon boat. Then, the shenanigans turn to an assault when they drag Jennifer’s kayak at high speed behind the boat. I can only imagine the horror going through her head, not knowing if they relent or drag her away. The terror amplifies when they confine her to a secluded part of the woods screaming like banshees. She know that she is in deep trouble.

What Comes Next is Hard to Witness

On the surface they look like incompetent trouble makers, but their ferocity can be felt moments before the physical assault. The attack is a three act descent into savage cruelty. First, Stanly and Andy hold down Jennifer while Johnny rapes her. Eventually Jennifer stops fighting as if letting it happen will get it over with. The attackers eventually release her. Jennifer stumbles into the woods bruised, muddy and broken. Little does she know that the assault has just begun.

The second assault ratchets up the brutality as Andy plays a threatening tune on his harmonica. The men gather up Jennifer throw her over a rock. This assault is more violent than the first.  Again the attackers relent. More hurt, more humiliated and more scared, Jennifer gathers herself up and eventually shambles to the safety of her cottage. Her naked body is covered with blood and mud.

Inside, she believes that she is finally safe. While dialing the police, she hears the footsteps of her attackers. They are in the house. The terror begins anew. This time Matthew awkwardly rapes her, followed by Stanley. Stanley, not satisfied with just sexual assault, batters Jennifer beyond the brutality that she already endured. Finally, they leave.

Camille Keaton as Jennifer - Brutalized and Ready for Revenge
Camille Keaton as Jennifer – Brutalized and Ready for Revenge

Revenge is Best Served Cold

The gangs concern shifts to avoiding being caught. Looking for a patsy, they send Matthew, to murder Jennifer. In a predictable act of cowardice, he pretends to murder Jennifer and lies to Johnny and the crew. This turns out to be a deadly mistake.

Jennifer finally regains her composure. She plots here revenge, using her beauty to lure them in like a black widow spinning a web. One by one, she brutally doles out her revenge in appropriately brutal ways. When Jennifer finally confronts Johnny, in all too real, he spends his short time on earth blaming Jennifer’s sexuality for his actions. He deservedly gets it the worst when Jennifer castrates him, leaving him to slowly bleed to death.

Jennifer in an Iconic Scene
Jennifer in an iconic final attack

I Spit on Your Grave – The Final Word

Is I Spit on Your Grave a great movie? Sadly, it is not. Is it the worst movie of all time? Hardly. I Spit on Your Grave is not for everyone. In fact, it is not for most people. Still, this is a movie that is worth seeing if only to put an exclamation point on the brutality of rape.

It feels awkward describing this attacks as they are disturbing and difficult to watch. Likewise, they are difficult to describe with an appropriate level disfavor. I Spit on Your Grave feels all to authentic and it serves as a morbid reminder of the horror of sexual assault. It doesn’t feel gratuitous, it just feels raw and unforgiving.

Most people do not want to see a graphic PSA. Likewise they will be turned off by this film. Also, I Spit on Your Grave is not the only game in town. The Last House on the Left beat it to the punch by 6 years. It is arguably a better film of the two.

As a complete body of work, I Spit on Your Grave is not a classic. Possibly it could be considered a cult classic, but rewatchability is a requirement for me. I personal do not enjoy watching this film. However, it does provide a bit of raw cinéma vérité that sullies the soul. That makes it profound. Accordingly, I do recommend this film if only to complete an education in upper echelon B grade horror movies.

I Spit on Your Grave (1978) - A Horrific Tale of Revenge - Malevolent Dark
spit on your grave camille keaton

Director: Meir Zarchi

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:32

Editor's Rating:

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