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I Spit on Your Grave(1978)
The story of a Jennifer Hill, a writer who retreats to the country to work on her novel. Whilst there she is subjected to a horrific gang rape by four locals and left for dead. She somehow manages to regain her strength and sets out to exact a deadly revenge... Banned by censors, bashed by critics, reviled by feminists... The legacy of Day of the Woman can be summed up in one word: controversy.
For more about I Spit on Your Grave and the I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray release, see I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nicholls, Gunter Kleeman, Alexis Magnotti
Director: Meir Zarchi
» See full cast & crew
I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 28, 2011
Have a nice summer.
What makes a movie "too much?" What takes it "too far?" Where's the line between good taste and pointless exercises in violence? Whatever happened to cheering on the good guys, enjoying the sweet taste of revenge, or even the old proverb that advocates an eye for an eye? I Spit on Your Grave is a decidedly brutal picture that's certainly flawed, but is it really so wrong to cheer on the grotesque deaths of four rapists who are as guilty as the sun is hot? Of course, the problem isn't the principal; it's the vivid depiction of violence against a woman that, sure, maybe goes a little further than Deliverance, but whereas that film is lauded -- and rightfully so -- as a tale of triumph over adversity; the unbreakable bonds of friendship even in the most challenging of circumstances; and, yes, sweet revenge leveled against pigs who deserve all they get and more, I Spit on Your Grave is seen as borderline pornography, brutal trash that has no place in the cinematic medium, even up against pictures that are infinitely more grotesque, and without purpose at that. I Spit on Your Grave is an epic cult classic, the sort of off-limits film that's more a victim of perception than reality and, at the end, it just feels good to watch the girl get her revenge on a quartet of slime balls who punched their own ticket to hell long before their victim sent them there for eternity.
Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) is a big city New York girl who's off to the peaceful countryside for a summer of relaxation and time alone to write her first novel. Her arrival is inconsequential, and the suddenly liberated Jennifer enjoys her newfound privacy to its fullest extent. It doesn't take long for the locals to start interrupting her peace and quiet. Speed boats and unwanted passes quickly turn into something much more sinister. Jennifer is raped repeatedly by four men, one of them the slow and seemingly friendly grocery store clerk named Matthew (Richard Pace) who's the virgin the men egg on to get his first taste of manhood with the now bloodied and beaten Jennifer. Matthew can't quite bring himself to finish the task, but Jennifer survives the ordeal thanks to Matthew's wobbly attitude over the whole thing. As she heals from her physical wounds, she begins to realize that the psychological scars may never disappear, so long, at least, as her rapists are sill breathing. I Spit in Your Grave doesn't have much of a plot, and it's drawn out to occasionally excruciatingly brutal stretches of violence. It's the sort of movie with no secrets and no false fronts; it is what it is and it makes no effort to hide its intentions.
The ultimate question that stems from I Spit on Your Grave, at least from a critical perspective, is just how to offer a balanced but still opinionated examination of a film that's renowned for its awfulness yet still stokes a certain fire that makes it one of the all-time great movies of revenge? There's the argument that something this bad shouldn't even be made. Sure, cheer on the victim -- like the poster art says, no jury in America would convict this woman -- but do audiences really need to see a rape that's not only detailed, but drawn out to where it defines and dominates the film's entire middle act? Well, it's that drawn-out, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, all-too-disgusting act -- that's repeated several times in a few places and continues on even after the victim's been reduced to a pile of flesh and bone with almost no power to resist and slathered in mud and her own blood and who knows what else -- that's the driving force behind the revenge she's going to get. Would a reduced, unseen, or merely suggested rape sequence be enough to justify the killings, and would the audience react the same way to them? That brings the discussion full circle back to whether or not a movie like this should even be made. It's hard to watch -- no doubt about that -- but audiences must decide for themselves if the middle act of torture is justification enough for the high that comes from every last drop of blood Jennifer spills in her justified quest for vengeance. This is a movie not for the weak of mind or stomach, but it's far from tasteless and is certainly not without meaning or value. If anything it, advocates brutal revenge that's equal to -- maybe even less than -- the violence done to the victim. Whether that's fit for a motion picture or even real life is not the point; too late, the movie exists. Instead, viewers must choose whether it's fit and proper and worth the effort and the soul-searching some might require to decide whether her actions are justifiable and the movie, by extension, is watchable. You go girl.
Now then, its love-it-or-hate-it message and potential soul-searching murky areas aside, I Spit on Your Grave really isn't that much of a movie outside of its shock value and final acts of bloody revenge. The film gives off a low-budget vibe in practically every scene; it's clear from the techniques and the lack of spit and polish that it was done with a small amount of money in hand, and considering that any writer and filmmaker worth his or her salt would know that the film probably wouldn't find life as a mainstream product and would have to settle for the drive-in circuit and a fringe group following, that low budget was inevitable. Still, I Spit on Your Grave manages to overcome its technical shortcomings thanks to its story and the brutality behind it. Most of the negatives -- even the midlevel-to-bad acting -- simply melt away in the context of the film's bread-and-butter thematic elements and visual nastiness. Camille Keaton does manage what really amounts to a trio of excellent performances; she's first the unassuming everywoman ready to pen her first novel, followed by a "how in the world did she bring herself to go through this?" effort as the bloodied and ragged rape victim, and finally moving on to play a stoic, confident, and remorseless revenge-seeking woman with nothing -- not even her own conscience -- to stop her from ending the lives of the those who forever changed hers. The four men in question deliver performances of varying degrees of success. The part of the "slow" Matthew character is one of the most frustrating; it's a good part though the acting could use some refinement, but Richard Pace pulls off the slow and morally-confused country bumpkin who succumbs to peer pressure well enough.
I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray, Video Quality
I Spit on Your Grave definitely shows its age and budget in Anchor Bay's commendable but not-without-flaws Blu-ray release. The transfer exhibits some issues that can and do become distractions -- there are some static and fleeting pops and scratches evident throughout, some flickering and wobbly shots, a few scattered soft elements, and speckle-ridden and overwhelming blacks -- but the bulk of the transfer has nothing but overwhelming positives to offer, even if parts of the transfer give off the vibe that this is a decent but worn print culled straight from the reels found in a drive-in theater projector. Anchor Bay's 1080p transfer delivers solid, but not exceptional, details; tree leaves can look clumpy and medium-distance objects lack perfect definition, but the image's foreground elements -- wood and wooded terrain, faces and clothes, brick and stone textures, and cloth furniture -- tend to impress a great deal in terms of details and clarity. Colors are quite good, never appearing extraordinarily robust but certainly steady and pleasant for the duration. A fair bit of grain is retained over the entirety of the transfer that, along with the era-specific feel of the colors and details, rounds this transfer into form and creates a solid throwback cinematic texture. I Spit on Your Grave is far from the perfect catalogue transfer, but it's honest and steady in most every shot, those several problem areas not withstanding.
I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's really not all that much to Anchor Bay's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack for I Spit on Your Grave. This relatively low-budget film sports a somewhat mushy soundtrack that gets the job done but never extends itself beyond the delivery of basic sound effects, atmospherics, and dialogue. The front speakers handle the vast majority of the track, and even atmospherics -- country chirping birds, slight gusts of wind -- rarely find themselves playing from the back with any kind of force or volume. The track's heaviest element comes in several scenes where a small engine motorboat zips around the screen. The rumble of the engine is handled adequately enough, but there's no sense of the sheer force or raw power one might associate with such a device. Church organs blare with a high-pitched but fairly true-to-life tenor in one scene. The track's lone gunshot enjoys a fair bit of oomph and authority. Dialogue is a mixed bag; it's generally crisp and accurate but does play as decidedly and unquestionably muffled in a few scenes, a prime example coming during a campout scene featuring the soon-to-be-rapists in chapter three. Overall, this isn't a bad listen, it's just a flat and inconsequential one, one that's more attributable to the natural elements than any fault of the Blu-ray.
I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
I Spit on Your Grave features a nice assortment of extras, highlighted by a pair of excellent commentary tracks and a quality interview with Director Meir Zarchi.
I Spit on Your Grave Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I Spit on Your Grave is a tough assignment, no doubt about it. For some, it'll be an even tougher watch. It's a movie with its heart in the right place no doubt about it; the execution, on the other hand, is certainly up for debate, and whether or not the film should even exist is another matter altogether, one that just can't be answered rightly or wrongly. I Spit on Your Grave is one of the most notorious films ever made, and that's just the sort of publicity that keeps it going, that continues to make it a big seller and one of the quintessential "off-limits" movies ever made. For some, the labels and nefarious quotes and general hate towards the movie will be enough to keep it always at arms length; for others, that's the whole reason to embrace it, but there's no real reason for the vast chasm between this and Deliverance, at least from a very base perspective and never mind that Deliverance is the far and away superior technical production. I Spit in Your Grave is a must-see for audiences who pride themsleves in giving anything and everything a chance and for those who aren't swayed by controversy or general consensus; the best works of art are sometimes the most controversial. I Spit on Your Grave is tough to watch and, even beyond those difficulties, it's not a very good movie, but darn it if that little voice inside in't cheering like mad for the entire final act. This Anchor Bay Blu-ray release is solid all around; the technical presentation could use a bump, but all things considered the picture and sound presentations are in relatively good shape. The supplements could stand a few more features, too, but what's here is rather good. Highly recommended to those willing to give it a shot and who can accept the film for what it is.
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