I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. 1978. WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY MEIR ZARCHI. STARRING CAMILLE KEATON, RICHARD PACE, ERON TABOR, ANTHONY NICHOLS AND GUNTER KLEEMAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a controversial one. I absolutely love this film, this classic cult ‘rape-and-revenge’ film, as it’s referred to, but there’s no doubt that there’s a lot in it for people to take issue with. It’s the story of a beautiful young woman called Jennifer Hills who is brutally gang-raped by four men when she moves to an isolated cottage in the Connecticut countryside to write her first novel. She then proceeds to take revenge on each of the men in turn in various gruesome ways. Intrigued? Read on, dear film fans, read on…
The rape takes place in the woods near the cottage and in the cottage itself. The vulnerable and physically fragile young woman is held down and raped, sodomized and battered by the local garage mechanic, his two unemployed friends and their mentally challenged friend/hanger-on, who works as the local grocery delivery boy. Oh yeah, it’s a good group all right.
The rape is hard to watch. It lasts a long time and is, sadly, all too realistic. As well as the physical and sexual battery, Jennifer is mentally tormented by the men who twice trick her into thinking that her ordeal is over, but guess what? It’s not. The actress is mostly fully naked for the rape scenes. I’m guessing that that was difficult for her.
The rapists even make fun of her writing efforts and tear them up. As a writer myself, that was nearly as hard to watch as the rapes. I admit that I found the woman a bit annoying at first. I mean, I had to write my first novel at a rickety kitchen table cluttered with all the paraphernalia of a busy household and with the TV permanently on in the background.
I’ve never had the opportunity to lie in a hammock outside my country home scribbling leisurely in a notebook. No, I’m not bitter. I’m just saying, is all. But when I saw those… those ignoramuses tearing up her work I felt gutted for her. Writing’s bloody hard enough. You don’t go around destroying something that someone’s put their blood, sweat and tears into. It’s just not cricket, old boy.
Jennifer’s vulnerability during the prolonged attacks is pitiful to see. She hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of defending herself against the four thugs, who see it almost as their right to rape her because she wanders around the cottage grounds in her bikini and is always ‘flaunting’ her beautiful, near-naked body in front of them.
This part is true. She is always half-naked wandering around the place, lolling in her hammock or drifting on the river in her little boat. Even I wanted her to put some kit on. I just kept thinking: ‘This isn’t safe behaviour! It’s not safe…!’
I’m not even going to touch that one, however. There are those who think that what a woman is wearing is a factor in rape. Then there are others who think that that shouldn’t even come into it. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, the men in the film take it upon themselves to violate a defenceless woman. Or is she…? Defenceless, I mean. Well, not exactly. That’s where the whole revenge thing comes in.
This is kind of where the film fell down a little bit for me. In order to wreak vengeance on her attackers, and there’s no doubt that they do deserve justice, we’re supposed to believe that Jennifer would commit acts that it’s hard to imagine any recently raped woman would perform. If you watch the film, you’ll know what I mean.
Also, her plans seem a little confused and not very believable at times, like when she lets Johnny take the gun from her. That could have gone very badly for her there. Still, she gets the results. All I’m saying is that her plans seem to depend rather a lot on chance and things could so easily have gone a different way for her.
This film is also known as ‘DAY OF THE WOMAN.’ In no way do I see this film as a feminist victory or an empowerment movie. What the men do to Jennifer is wrong. What she does to them in return is wrong too, though. She doesn’t even call the police or seek medical help, for Chrissakes! Playing the vigilante is not the way to go. Therefore, I don’t cheer and whoop with delight when the rapists get what’s coming to them. I just feel a bit queasy and wonder what she thinks she’s playing at. How does this help the situation?
They’re the ones who deserve prison, but the way she’s going, she might well end up there before ’em. After all, they’re more or less the only four people in the tiny, one-horse town. They’re bound to be missed. Mind you, there’s no sign of any law enforcement presence in the place either, so Jennifer may just get away with it after all.
I’m only giving my own opinion here. No doubt there’ll be people- maybe men as well as women- who think that she was damned right to do what she did. Me personally, I wouldn’t go down that route. But hey, that’s just me. Each to their own and all that.
My copy of this film came off my precious BOX OF THE BANNED, by the way, for anyone who’s interested. It’s THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION OF VIDEO-NASTIES and contains six terrific films that were banned for a good many years.
The other films in the set are as follows: ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, THE DRILLER KILLER, THE EVIL DEAD, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN. It’s a brilliant set. ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and the flick currently under review are my two favourites. If you ever see the set knocking around a shop somewhere, make sure you take it home with you. But pay for it first, obviously, haha…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY