I Spit On Your Grave opens with the arrival of a young New Yorker, Jennifer played by Camille Keaton (Tragic Ceremony) and coincidently the writer and director, Meir Zarchi’s wife and Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, in a small Connecticut town. Jennifer has moved from the Big Apple in order to write her first novel but instead meets a very grizzly fate at the hands of four local men. At the start, whilst it seems like an idyllic summer retreat for Jennifer, the viewer is treated to a slightly less picturesque insight into the local community including the slow grocery delivery man Matthew (Richard Pace) and two unemployed layabouts Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann). Indeed, our introduction to Stanley and Andy hints at their unsavoury nature with them throwing around a knife at the local gas station whilst leering at the newly arrived woman.
After a few days of relative peace, Jennifer is surprised in her canoe by Stanley and Andy in their motorboat and then follows one of the longest (25 minutes) rape scenes in cinematic history in which the two men along with Matthew and Johnny (Eron Tabor), the gas station attendant. Understandably this is an incredibly harrowing and upsetting to watch scene which culminates in her being left for dead, only alive on the mercy of Matthew who could not stomach killing her. The reason that the rape scene is so long is that there are periods where it seems like Jennifer is safe, having escaped her tormentors only to be caught and repeatedly violated. Life continues as normal for the four men with them complaining that ‘life is too boring now,’ until Jennifer, now unhinged after the attack stalks them and exacts her revenge in an equally graphic and brutal manner.
Unlike many films (think Psycho with its stabbing violins) there is a distinct lack of soundtrack lending a gritty and realistic quality to the film, making Keaton’s heart-wrenching screams more traumatic. Whilst some of the dialogue is stilted and Jennifer’s novel writing (she would use a lot of paper the way she writes!) is both unbelievable and a poor novel, the acting itself is (generally) good, especially considering the horrific nature of the film.
As with Cannibal Holocaust, this film is not one to watch lightly, however unlike Cannibal Holocaust, there seems to be very little plot and little reason for the traumatic violence beyond shocking the audience, although director Meir Zarchi’s preferred title, Day of the Woman, hints at women’s rights and struggles, I fail to see much evidence of this in the film. I Spit on your Grave has previously been named as one of the worst films ever made, although despite this a remake was produced in 2010, however after watching the original I am not keen to see the later version, nor could I recommend watching this film, except maybe as an earlier example of the ‘torture-porn’ or ‘gorno’ genre.
Fun Fact: All the actors performed their own stunts as the production couldn’t afford any stuntpeople.