While those films are extremely enjoyable, there are other films that are made, that need to bring an audience to their knees, to make them question what they just saw on screen and more importantly make them think and feel something. An audience needs to feel a certain emotion, maybe it’s unfamiliar or maybe what they are seeing on screen is something that resonates a real life experience which then connects with them on a whole different level; and this is why I Spit on Your Grave is such an important piece of cinema.
In 1978 the world was exposed to brutality and honesty with the release of I Spit on Your Grave. While no company would distribute it, it did manage to reach an audience at local Drive-Ins. But what made this film have the notoriety it has today are several things; the extremely misinformed film reviews, and of course being on the Video Nasties list. Having such a negative aura surrounding the film has been a blessing and a curse. While the bad press has made a lot of people just make up their minds on the film without seeing it, there are a group of people out there that chose to watch it with an open mind; some understood the narrative, and some didn’t. A lot of people have said that this film is pure trash, and that all it is doing is exploiting a very serious subject and ‘making fun’ of it. But again these narrow minded views could not be more wrong.
Here we have a writer named Jennifer who is from New York and all she wants to do is get away and go somewhere quiet where she can be inspired to write. But as she enters this secluded town, she is acquainted with several men, who just see her as a sexy plaything; they don’t see her as someone who has feelings. A little while passes and her good looks and sexuality haven’t left their mind, so they try to force their mentally challenged friend Matthew to rape her; he refuses. One by one, they rape her, violate her, make her feel less than human, punish her for being beautiful, for being confident in herself and they punish her for being a woman. After two weeks of putting herself back together physically and emotionally she gets her revenge, in the only way they can understand; through sexuality and violence. I Spit on Your Grave is far more than just a revenge film, this is a film about how women are perceived in the eyes of horny men with depraved fantasies and no limits.
Camille Keaton’s portrayal of Jennifer was astounding. You see her character go on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and everything is played so naturally. You couldn’t have just had any actress with a decent pair of breasts and a pretty face to play the role of Jennifer. This film needed an emotionally strong woman who could delve inside her psyche and bring forth that honest emotion that the audience could connect with; and Camille Keaton did just that.
In a lot of exploitation films of the 70s and 80s, the musical score was a big part of the film that would bring out emotion in the audience. However in I Spit on Your Grave, there is little to no music. Even the opening title sequence is without a score, but having zero music adds to the reality, it isn’t a distraction. The film’s director Meir Zarchi didn’t hide the fact that this film was going to be brutal, and he made the potential viewers of this film aware of what they were getting themselves into; so why try and disguise the honesty with an elaborate musical score?
You cannot talk about I Spit on Your Grave without mentioning the extremely graphic rape scenes, so as a woman here is my interpretation of what I saw and how it made me feel. There have been many films which have had such sick acts incorporated into them, some make you think the film is pure trash, some make you not believe the actors portrayal and others make you connect with it in one way or another. As a woman there are times where you will have that moment of feeling used, hurt, betrayed and violated and those feelings stick with you, they never leave. And obviously seeing a film that heavily focuses on rape can touch a nerve inside you.
I Spit on Your Grave touched a nerve within me, but I could never turn the off the film. You see the rapes for what they are; you see them with little to no musical score so there’s no distraction. You see camera angles that reflect Jennifer’s pain, as well as the depraved look on her rapists face. You see the moments leading up to it, during, and the aftermath. You see a natural progression of what happens to a woman physically and emotionally and how she deals with this pain. I Spit on Your Grave is relevant to film history, not because it was banned, and not because it was controversial; it’s relevant because it’s honest.
Sure it’s a revenge film and she gives the men what they rightfully deserve, but this isn’t just an exploitation film that degrades women and gives a male viewer something to masturbate over. What really got to me more than just the rape scenes themselves are the aftermath of what has happened to her. Seeing her crawl away, covered in dirt, cuts, bruises and blood and looking into those dead eyes, hit my emotions to the core and I even cried. They bestowed a depraved act on her because they saw her as a tease, a whore, something that is just empty with nothing to offer besides what was in between her legs, and because of that act she really does feel dead inside. When watching I Spit on Your Grave I feel hurt, I feel upset, and I feel disgusted that something so despicable can be done to another human being. But feeling those emotions doesn’t make me automatically write off the film and see it as negative. I see this film as a reality, I see what she has gone through and how her experience resonates my past. I connect with this and I am not ashamed to admit it.
To all the women and men reading this and are not convinced that this a credible film which involves more truth than you know, think about this. Imagine you are a confident person, you have talents, you are positive but you see life for what it is. Imagine having that kind of outlook on life and then have it come burning down to the ground, because someone stole a part of you that you don’t just freely give. Imagine someone pinning you down, spreading your legs and violating you, using you, seeing you as nothing, seeing you as a pathetic plaything who’s weak, seeing your body as something that they own, that they can control. Imagine someone’s sweat, their spit, their odor on you and no matter how many times you clean yourself up you still feel vile. Try closing your eyes when you sleep, and all you can see is that person, and in the silence of the night all you can hear is their heavy breathing. Imagine feeling so much hate, sadness, and just feeling like everything inside you is now rotten. This person you have no become because of brutal act is something that sticks with you, you cannot change who you become, but you see life in a whole different perspective. Rape scenes in films have always divided an audience; some see them relevant to the plot while others don’t. Some filmmakers add rape into their films because they want people talking about the film, which is the wrong attitude to have; they should want the audience to feel something about the film, there’s a difference.
Films like I Spit on Your Grave shouldn’t be banned because governments, religious groups and parents think this will influence kids and culture; films aren’t the root of all evil. Culture is already vile, because we have been feeding ourselves with toxic bullshit and with each day that passes we start to change our mind on all the things that are bad for us. And before you know it, it becomes more important to keep rapists out of jail rather than in jail, and the victims aren’t the victims anymore; they are just simply known as sluts. That is how society thinks. And now thanks to social media, and cameras on your mobile phone you can now HUMILIATE the victim and spread it online and you can get away with it, wow what a time to be a rapist! As a culture we have allowed this complacency and we have let it happen for so long, yet we act surprised by what is happening in the world, and since we are in denial we blame a notorious film for every single wrongdoing. If you want empty calories then by all means keep turning on your trash TV and become more and more soulless, but if you want truth then turn on a powerful film like I Spit on Your Grave, it might wake you up to your brain dead society.