May 20, 2008

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

I first watched this movie several years ago, and I have to say that I was unimpressed. Sure, it was shocking, violent and very disturbing, but it just did nothing for me whatsoever. I was just left cold and disinterested by the whole movie.

However, just recently I read a couple of pieces about the movie in the zine Ax Wound which compelled me to grab myself a copy and give it another go. Quite honestly I am glad I did. In the past I always preferred Last House on the Left and The Night Train Murders for films in the rape-revenge sub genre, maybe it was because there was some sort of detachment in viewing them, both had more of a "movie" feel to them; the use of music in the soundtracks etc. I Spit On Your Grave though is a whole different experience, there is no real soundtrack aside from the use of some opera later on in the film, it doesn't feel as though you are watching a movie, more so being beaten around the head by this visual tour de force.

The movie itself centres around Jennifer Hill, a writer from New York, who travels to the country in order to write her debut novel. Whilst there she is repeatedly raped and beaten by four country boys and left for dead. However, she isn't dead and soon goes about getting her revenge on the assailants.

A short and simple premise that goes far deeper than initially anticipated. The movie may only be a couple of hours long but I guarentee it will stick in your mind far longer than that. There is no real respite from the onscreen savagery, no cheap laughs and no real sense of relief come the final credits. The damage was done during an intense thirty or so minutes, and no amount of retribution, however fitting, will lift the tone of this horrifically dark movie, and I for one am so glad about that.

Technically I Spit On Your Grave is an adequate movie, there is no reliance on special effects, no fancy camera work or editing just concentration on the events as they unfold. Where the real strength of this movie lies though is in the performance of the cast and almost voyeuristic style of the direction from Meir Zarchi. Camille Keaton truly does give a powerhouse of a performance during the entire movie, translating the suffering and subsequent payback with great subtlety and class, and subtle isn't really a word that can often be used in context to this movie I assure you. As well as Keaton's great showing credit must also be given to the four assailants, each one very different but each of them will make you hate them to their very core such is the strength of their performances.

The direction by Meir Zarchi, as I mentioned, is also very good leaving us in a situation that we as the viewer really don't want to be in; some of the shots linger for just that second too long adding further discomfort to the viewing experience, and believe me this is a movie to experience rather than just watch.

Unfortunately the title of the movie, and the accompanying artwork bely the real content of the movie. It sounds like an exploitation movie, and as such is marketed as one. On the rear of the case there is a question asked; Is I Spit On Your Grave just another exploitation movie, or is it truly a masterpiece of modern cinema? Upon viewing it again I can safely say that my answer lies with the latter, this is truly a great, great movie. Unsettling and disturbing to its very core, and unlikely to ever be matched in its power.

4 Stars (out of four)

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