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I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
It's the one sheet, that image, and that tagline that damns the film in the minds of so many, but heaven help me, I'll always think of 'I Spit On Your Grave' as a genuinely arresting, bordering on good film. To this day I still don't really consider it an exploitation film, certainly not in the sense that 'SS Hell Camp' or the 'Ilsa' films are. Maybe it's pretentions work for me.

No one in the cast attended Juilliard, and I'm certain the budget could be cut out of the craft services for 'Boss Bitches #19' and still leave cash for hot buttered scones inbetween pegging scenes, but I believe that Meir Zarchi really made something here.

The first half of the film is very strong stuff, haunting and aggressively ugly. The second half, or more specifically the climax, suffers when Jennifer Hill's revenge plot kind of flies off the handle into absurdity, the speedboat massacre immediately springs to mind.

The one scene that always gets me, outside of Stanley's violent, misogynist freak-out involving a rather uncourteously placed beer bottle, is the castration scene. It's not the cut, the cut is nothing, even Johnny doesn't really feel it; it's that first glop of arterial spray that shoots out from under the bath water. His look sells it.
That split second when he sees it, that "what the fuck was that?" look on his face, that "did that come from me?" look, and then he just goes into it, and despite Johnny being a digusting, rapist shitheel, you feel it anyway, because we all fear a certain violation of our bodies.

Great fucking scene, from top to bottom.
post #2 of 14
I picked up the Elite DVD last year and the Joe Bob Briggs commentary track is worth the price alone. He really does a good job in arguing against all those who have trashed the film, most noteably old Roger Ebert. I hadn't seen the movie in many years and actually never ended up watching the DVD without commentary because it's just an uncomfortable film.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Ebert's review of this film is very disappointing, and his and Siskel's behavior after the release of Friday the 13th and the whole slasher film debacle is deeply unfortunate, especially Siskel's appalling decision to give out Betsy Palmer's home phone number so that offended parties can call her up and register their disappointment that she participated in the film.

When I read about the responses to ISOYG, I tend to think of Ray Williams' 1972 Last House on the Left rip-off, Wrong Way. Wrong Way plays like the version of ISOYG that Ebert and so many others thought they saw in 1978-80. It's intentions are obvious, it's clearly made for the raincoat crowd and makes no bones about it. I'm not saying that Wrong Way should have been protested, I'm not the least bit prudish about these things, and I wouldn't own it and stuff like Wet Wilderness and Water Power if I didn't love outrageous exploitation films, but it just illustrates how people can be so lemming-like and totally miss the mark on a filmmaker's intent.
post #4 of 14
I remember reading his review off it in an early book collection of his negative reviews that they had in my high school library. He seemed bothered by the people that were in the theater during the screening who enjoyed the rape.

His angry rant against Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter during the review on his show was hilarious. He made it seem like slasher movies would be the downfall of young America. Even Siskel seemed like he wanted to laugh at him.
post #5 of 14
To this day I'm still unable to totally, 100% respect Ebert for his hatred of I Spit on Your Grave, and love of Last House on the Left. I don't understand how he could find one so blindingly offensive, and the other brilliant.
post #6 of 14
I just try to not even think about Ebert's stance on horror/exploitation. I love everything else he writes but his opinions on horror seem so off base most of the time that it's kind of aggravating.
post #7 of 14
Not a popular opinion, but regarding the Slasher sub-genre, in a way Ebert was right. Mainstreamed exploitation values, playing death for cheap thrills. He definitely went overboard, displaying a surprising reactionary streak. However, it was mostly unsophisticated filmmakers he targeted (Wasn't he a fan of [I]Halloween[/I?) ]Think it's this mixture of sex & violence, and the buttons pushed, that makes him uncomfortable.
post #8 of 14
I can absolutetly understand Ebert or any critic's hating or not enjoying these films. Most of them are very dumb and I say that as a fan. I just thought his rant, against the Friday the 13th movies in paricular, was ridicilous. His crusade to rid the world of these films only brought them more attention. I see most of these slasher films as particularly harmless.
post #9 of 14
I'm not a huge fan of the movie but I am a huge fan of the poster...

...made even more provocative knowing that the model in this infamous poster is a teenaged Demi Moore.
post #10 of 14
Originally Posted by Crazy Jim View Post
I remember reading his review off it in an early book collection of his negative reviews that they had in my high school library. He seemed bothered by the people that were in the theater during the screening who enjoyed the rape.
You hit the nail on the head. He was offended by the experience of watching the movie and blamed it on the movie rather than the people around him.

It's an uncomfortable film to watch. First time I saw it, I rented it with a female friend. We expected a cheesy exploitation movie we could laugh at. We had no idea what we were in for.

When the rape scene started, I began to feel uncomfortable that I was in the same room with another woman while watching this poor woman get violated like that.

By the end of the film's first half, I felt unclean. I felt ashamed of being a man.

That's the whole point. That's powerful filmmaking as far as I'm concerned and I Spit on Your Grave is one of the most critically underrated movies of all time.
post #11 of 14
Yes, it is very uncomfortable. As I said before, I purchased the DVD last year and couldn't get around to watching it sans the commentary track. I'm not quite sure what it is about it because even Cannibal Holocaust has gotten a handful of repeated viewings from me.
post #12 of 14
I haven't seen this since I was 15, but even then I found it an ordeal more than a movie. I still think Ms. 45 owns this film. That at least explored the shades of gray better and more importantly, had somewhat of a sense of humor.
post #13 of 14

Yet another movie, like Cannibal Holocaust, who's notoriety overwhelms the fact that this is simply a really good movie. It's simple, undoubtedly, but effective. When I heard about the 20 minute rape scene, I assumed she was raped and beaten for twenty minutes. So when it ended, I was surprised. Then she stumbles upon them again, and gets sodomized. Then she crawls, makes her way home, gets beaten and raped again. It's rare that a scene as notorious as this can still deliver a sucker punch, but when that phone was kicked away my heart sank.


I'm still not sure what to make of the story structure though. It seems to me that it's the inverse of most exploitation films, which first tittilate you with sex and then "punish you" (which is just more titillation) with hard violence. But there's nothing titillating about the way the rape is shot. If you're aroused by the rape scenes, as much of the crowd at Ebert's infamous screening were, you're aroused by the concept of rape, inherently, because there's no sex in those scenes, only violence.


But the third act, the violence isn't actually that bad. It's gruesome but mostly implied. The tittilation from the last third comes from the way Camille Keaton seduces the men before killing them. There's gratuitous nudity and she even has sex with them again. There's even one shot of herself in the mirror that lingers on her naked body for near 3 straight minutes. It's this last act that makes me think that this isn't really the feminist movie it wants to be, which is a shame because this image:




...belongs in a really great feminist movie.


Or is the idea that, after seeing this woman's body battered and violated, bruised and bleeding, writer/director Meir Zarchi is daring us to gawk at her? I feel it'd be a lot stronger if she didn't resort to having sex with these men to get into a position of power. But I'm mostly talking out of my ass, and am not as well-versed on feminist theory as I could be. There is a chapter on this film in the great book of feminist horror essays Men, Women, and Chainsaws, so I'll probably check that out soon.


Also worth noting: No soundtrack, other than a few diegetic instances of music.

post #14 of 14

I rented I Spit On Your Grave years ago. It was an uncomfortable viewing experience, much like Last House On The Left and Irreversible, but I thought the movie was pretty good.

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