Slightly traumatized and painfully shy Angela Baker is sent away to summer camp with her cousin. Not long after Angela's arrival, things start to go horribly wrong for anyone with sinister or less than honorable intentions.
Mrs. Voorhees is dead, and Camp Crystal Lake is shut down, but a camp next to the infamous place is stalked by an unknown assailant. Is it Mrs. Voorhees' son Jason, who did not really drown in the lake some 30 years before?
The film follows Jennifer, a writer who is working on a new novel and needs to get out of the city to finish it. She rents a riverside cabin in upstate New York to work on her novel, attracting the attention of a number of rowdy male locals. They catch Jennifer one day and strip her naked for the village idiot (Matthew) and rape her. Jennifer is later attacked and raped a further two times by the four degenerates, and her novel is also destroyed. But Jennifer recovers, and in her now-twisted, psychotic state, she begins to seek revenge on the men. Written by
Craig Johnson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Of all the films that were implicated in the absurd and sickening tabloid-fueled "video nasties" witch-hunt in the UK, some were demonised more than others. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE joins a select few as being one of THE films cited for causing the most problems at the time. Certainly, the title and advertising campaign (in classic exploitation fashion) was garish and contentious, but unlike some other films that suffered the same fate (such as SS EXPERIMENT CAMP), Zarchi's film is extremely powerful and disturbing... not to mention widely misinterpreted.
I've read a large number of reviews of this film. A worryingly high percentage of them accuse this movie of somehow advocating rape, and being sexist and demeaning. That is the last thought that crosses my mind whilst watching this. The whole "rape/revenge" genre is one that is fraught with moral contradictions. In essence, films of this type ARE exploiting the subject of rape (and sadly, often presenting it in a sexually ambiguous way) but does this mean that they are not able to condemn the subject matter, or offer a powerful criticism of the behaviour of many men towards women? The same school of argument is used against critical film-making like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST- can a film truly condemn what it exploits? I believe so, and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a triumphant example of this, putting forward more powerful a message about violence of rape and the attitudes of some men towards it than any other movie I care to mention. However, it goes even deeper than this in this particular case. Zarchi doesn't praise the rapists- nor does he condemn them. Similarly he offers no moral judgment on the revenge that is carried out by the female protagonist. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE offers a truly subjective message in that it presents gritty reality and leaves the viewer to make up their mind on the matter.
Much is made of the fact that the rape scenes last for around forty minutes. It seems that a lot of critics think that by proxy, long scenes of violence equal pure exploitation. In this case, this is far from the truth. The scenes are horrific, grueling and ugly. There is no kind of glorification of rape here. The scenes are shot practically real-time which brings home the gritty and sickening nature of what is being displayed. Furthermore, a lot of the scenes are shot from the victim's perspective. The revolting sight of sweating, grunting men is absolutely anti-sexual and anti-erotic, which is of course EXACTLY what it should be in this context! Rape has little to do with sex, and a great deal more to do with violence and power. This is expressed superbly in the sequences in this film. Sanitising the scenes that are supposedly "exploitative" would trivialise the very serious issues at hand.
The men presented in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE are nothing to emulate. Nothing is even said about the backgrounds of their characters- they are totally faceless within the context of the film (other than one long shot later on which shows one of the men with his family- merely proving him to be a liar and cheat as well as a rapist). The point here is that they don't even NEED character building- they represent the threat and actuality of sexual violence that women face every day. The final and most telling twist is that these men are then so gullible and arrogant that they could be seduced and murdered by the person they had attacked. If Ebert and all his sniveling comrades are really right about this film "promoting sexual violence", they must see something appealing in the behaviour of these men.
Despite what you might read elsewhere, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a tightly constructed and well crafted piece of film-making containing some powerfully symbolic imagery. Scenes such as Keaton sitting broken and alone in her house after her attacks or her swimming costume limply floating in the river are extremely effective. There is also practically no music in the entire film. The viewer can almost feel the sense of isolation at every stage of the story- initially it is liberating but it quickly becomes frightening as events unfold. The simple cinematography reflects the isolated feel of the locations that frame this film.
Many horror films can be fairly accused of being misogynistic. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE takes these concepts of misogyny and totally turns them around. This film is EMPOWERING, and whilst it does have the cynical production of an exploitation feature, Zarchi took this and created a powerful, bitter and dynamic story with many issues being explored therein. It's great. Check it out if you haven't already, and if you've watched it before with the wrong approach to it, I demand you have another look. This is one of the pinnacles of the genre but sadly it is (in)famous for all the wrong reasons.
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