I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter
Director: Meir Zarchi
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Elite Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: December 17, 2002
come from an evil place.”
***1/2 (on the Cult Scale)
to describe I Spit on Your Grave to the uninitiated is like grabbing
random adjectives from two separate bags: one
positive, one negative. One hand
pulls out words like deplorable, repulsive, and exploitive, while the other
comes up with others like original, harrowing, and uncompromising.
One criticism doesn’t diffuse another praise, nor vice versa.
seen the picture a number of times over the years. It’s not the kind of film one can easily label as
“entertainment”. It’s hard to
watch, yet undeniably provocative. It
violates my biggest taboo probably worse than any film I’ve ever seen, which
is that I don’t like to see women getting hurt.
But seeing men who hurt women getting hurt themselves is another matter.
Even then, this movie’s final act is hard to cheer, because it
doesn’t flinch. It shows you what you think you want to see, only to make you
think that maybe it really wasn’t what you wanted to see after all.
a few brief strokes: I Spit on
Your Grave is about a New York City woman named Jennifer Hills (Keaton) who
rents a summer house in the country in order to work on her first novel.
While there, she attracts the attention of four redneck losers (one
actually a half wit), who horribly assault and rape her in a sequence that keeps
falsely pretending to be over, only to get worse and worse.
Left for dead but still alive, her body heals but her soul does
not…after visiting a church to ask forgiveness for what she’s about to do,
she turns the tables on her attackers one by one…none live to regret what they
did to her.
rape scenes are truly horrifying. They
earn the right to the equally gruesome revenge scenes, but those are hardly
cathartic. Every time I see this
picture, it’s a palate soiling experience for me as far as movie violence
goes, which is why I give it high marks, and why every so often, I have to come
back to it.
other words, it seems to deliberately combat the violence-as-entertainment
mentality so prevalent in today’s movies and TV. Like most movie lovers, I cheer when Schwarzenegger mows down
the bad guys. It’s fun.
But when Jennifer exacts her revenge, it’s more deserving but less
satisfying. The movie seems to
think that violence is horrible and distasteful, and nothing to celebrate no
matter what form it appears in. Imagine
question must be asked…is Zarchi serving his own sadistic, perverted needs by
making the ultimate exploitation pic? I’ve
never been one to think so. In
fact, the story goes that Zarchi was affected in the early 70s by witnessing not
an actual rape, but the aftermath of one…how a young woman was traumatized
physically, mentally and emotionally by her brutal ordeal.
He then decided to make a movie that fully depicted the horror of rape.
Frankly, I don’t see how anyone could see this film and think that
anybody got pleasure from making it. I
especially can’t see, as some critics have argued, that the picture would
actually inspire rather than deter those who would abuse women. Do their comments actually say more about themselves than
they do Zarchi?
have I ever taken sides in the debate about whether this movie is sexist or
feminist. I don’t think it’s
either. There is no real statement
about the way men and women behave here. Most
men aren’t rapists…and frankly, who’s to say what anyone would do in
Jennifer’s situation, male or female?
done to her is unspeakably ugly and there’s no safety net for the audience.
To watch is almost to participate. We
get too close for comfort…yet what did we expect to see?
No one who saw the poster or the trailer could have any doubts about what
was going to be shown on screen (well, okay, the original tag line got the
number of men involved wrong by one, and none of them are dispatched by burning,
think Camille Keaton gives an astoundingly powerful performance in this movie.
Some might condemn her for her career short-sightedness in making such a
picture, but I prefer to praise her for her courage.
A lot is asked of her, and a lot rides on her ability to sell some really
horrid sequences. At least she
fared better than her co-stars, most of whom never appeared in another film!
Millennium Edition of I Spit on Your Grave ought to be enough fodder to
start the controversies all over again. Just
stay away from it unless you’re really willing to go all the way!
TRIVIA: Camille Keaton is
actually the grand-niece of silent film comedian Buster Keaton!
never seen a better looking presentation of this movie!
Elite has pulled out all the stops with their anamorphic transfer in
order to bring fans the cleanest, crispest, and brightest home video version of
this title to date. Scenes that once looked murky and soft on tape have a new
digital life…there is integrity in the images from the natural looking colors
to the level of detail that makes even the leaves on the trees stand out instead
of wash out. There are very few
signs of aging…maybe a tiny spot here, a small flicker there…but well within
acceptable limits for a movie over twenty years old.
A benchmark effort!
would have thought that a title like this would ever be offered with Dolby
Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks? You
get both here (plus the original mono for the purists), and Elite has done a
fine remastering job. There is
dynamic range, but mostly created from the quiet end instead of the loud end.
When things get silent, you’ll appreciate the eeriness coming from the
clean and noise-free track. Panning
effects are noticeable in several key scenes (particularly with the motorboat),
where the mix isn’t timid in bringing in the rear channels and the subwoofer. Dialogue is clear throughout, but maybe a little thin in
sound in comparison to the multi-channel effects.
is an extraordinary features package, starting with an unexpected
rarity…writer/director Meir Zarchi offers a commentary track!
Over the years, he’s remained mostly silent about his infamous picture,
but he comes clean and frank with his thoughts for this Millennium Edition
release. He starts off by reading a
variety of quotes from critics and moviegoers that say pretty much everything
that can be said about the movie, good or bad, before introducing himself and
settling in to talk about the making of the movie…yes, and his motivations
behind it, as well.
a great treat, but there’s an even better commentary track included, featuring
cult movie collector and guru Joe Bob Briggs.
It’s about the funniest track I’ve had the pleasure of listening to
all year. He even teaches you to
say the title as “I Spit…On Your Grave” in order to sound like the
of trailers, there are four of them on this disc, plus three TV spots and three
radio spots. There are
filmographies for Zarchi and his cast (many of them amusingly short), a terrific
gallery of posters and video cover artwork, and even a collection of excerpts
from reviews and articles on the movies, including the pair of critiques from
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert that got the movie pulled from exhibition in
a bonus, the menus and chapter selection screen feature full motion.
This package is a cult fan’s dream come true!