I Spit On Your Grave / Day of the Woman (1978)

“Total submission. That’s what I like in a woman — total submission.”

Synopsis:
When a female writer from New York (Camille Keaton) is gang-raped by thugs on a remote island, she plots her revenge.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is one among many reviewers who have argued that there is truly “no way to defend” this highly controversial, enormously discomfiting exploitation flick (starring Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, Camille — wife of the director). Indeed, the rape scenes in I Spit On Your Grave are so protracted (they last a total of 45 minutes), so realistic (there’s no film score), and so gruesome, that, as Peary points out, not even “male moviegoers [who] seemed to enjoy the mistreatment of the young girls in Last House on the Left… will identify with the rapists [here].”

This leads one to question why such a film would be made in the first place. Although director Meir Zarchi manages to “[show the] pain, humiliation, and terror of a rape victim as few filmmakers have,” is this really such an estimable achievement? Apparently Zarchi meant well, and had the noble intention of showing a woman taking personal revenge for her brutal mistreatment at the hands of men; yet Keaton’s systematic murders (she seduces each of the men, then leaves them to die) aren’t any easier to stomach. Indeed, the entire film is likely to be one of the most unpleasant movie-watching experiences you’ve ever had. Be strongly forewarned.

P.S. The theme of rape revenge was ultimately dealt with much more tastefully (and artfully) in Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45/Angel of Vengeance (1982).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Camille Keaton’s brave (foolhardy?) performance as the vengeful rape victim
    Keaton

Must See?
No, though film fanatics may be curious to check it out simply for its status as a controversial cult classic. But you have my permission to fast-forward through to the final half — and then to try to forget you ever saw it.

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One Response to “I Spit On Your Grave / Day of the Woman (1978)”

  1. Though I’m very much in agreement with your assessment here, I’m still not going to call this a must – cult status notwithstanding.

    I avoided this for years; read quite a bit about it, and knew it’s considered one of the most vile films ever made. Up to the time I saw it (finally, today – I can now scratch it off the Peary list; ‘scratch’ being the operative word), I was expecting something along the lines of a snuff film. It’s not.

    ‘I Spit…’ is technically competent, in a ‘Friday the 13th’ kind of way. Even at its most brutal – the rapes of Keaton – a line is definitely drawn by director Zarchi; it’s clear this is an exploitation film and the laws of such are followed. Is there an audience for it?: Yes – my guess is it’s not a very bright bunch. Would I call the film “vile”? I’d call it unnecessary, at times tiresome, and forgettable.

    [The DVD contains an extra – ‘Reviews and Articles’ – which does give an interesting rundown of the film’s history – explaining, among other things, how two major critics very publicly denounced the film; thus, of course, creating instant controversy and, one would imagine, strong interest. In this section, Zarchi also receives praise for his (ahem) artistry. Amusing.]

    Notes:

    I’d say Stephen King and/or Brian De Palma saw this before creating ‘Carrie’ (there’s an echo in Carrie’s experience at and return from the prom).

    Contains dialogue – in a scene in which Keaton’s supposed provocative dress and manner are talked of – that would resonate years later in the Jodie Foster film, ‘The Accused’.

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