Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of The Woman) (1978)

Fear 2/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment . . . I'm not sure how to rate this one
Creepiness 5/5
Nightmares 3/5

I Spit On Your Grave is graphic and horrifying in the most literal sense of the word. The story is as simple as they get: A woman from NYC moves out to country for the summer to work on her novel. There she is gang raped three times by four men, one of whom is mentally challenged. She survives and, once her physical wounds have healed, exacts gruesome revenge on each assailant one at a time. The end.

In 1980, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel (working at separate newspapers in Chicago before their "Sneak Previews" show on PBS eventually made "stars" out of them) skewered and derided this film so strongly that it was pulled from several Chicago theaters after only 6 days. It's easy to understand why since, as Ebert bluntly put it, the film portrays events that are "vile". The film, originally given an X rating, remains banned in many countries and continues to absorb nasty criticism from all kinds of sources.

But it's much too easy to write this off as just another exploitation film that strives to entertain by appealing to humanity's lowest common denominator. Yes, I Spit on Your Grave is not an easy film to watch, but it shouldn't be. It's not entertaining but it should not be seen as entertainment. Were that the case then I would advocate the total banning of this film right there with all of the"legit" and "learned" film critics who have a far wider audience than this aging punk rocker dude does.

There are two trains of thought around the movie - one is that it glorifies violence against women and violence in general. Maybe, but I think not. Were this a film that glorified violence against women, I would think the rape scenes would need to be much, MUCH less disgusting then they are here. You just can't glorify something to an audience that is repulsed by what you are showing them. Rape is an act of violence and this is not something the film makers want you to forget and, like it or not, they don't let you. This assumes your audience is not made up of degenerates, psychopaths and rapists. . .

The other is that this is a feminist statement (hence the film's other title "Day of The Woman") about repression, oppression and, again, violence against women. It's similar to the argument that strippers are the most powerful women in the world because they hold so much power over men by simply using the assets nature has given them. I would not be surprised to find that Camille Paglia is a fan of this film, but I'm speculating. Besides, as a middle-class white man, I'm not even sure I'm qualified to touch on this one and besides, how much philosophy and intellectualism needs to be throw about here?

Regardless of one's take on the film's statements or commentary, it is sufficient to note that I Spit On Your Grave is remarkably violent and tremendously effective at making one feel gross. It's nowhere near the abysmal dumb-fest it's made out to be as there are themes that are not often touched on in mainstream film (The Accused and Irreversible are similar in that respect). It doesn't insult it's audience by striving to make anything about the scenes of rape and violence entertaining or titillating at all. In that sense, this is certainly a horror film for adults, but whether or not it's an "adult film" is still at question.

As far as execution goes, the acting is decent and relatively believable for an ultra-low budget film. There is no soundtrack at all which makes things all the more unnerving when things get nasty (it's much too "real"). The pace is slow and deliberate and builds tension well. The bad guys die a little bit too easily (they essentially hand her the knife and say "stab me") but whatever. Like I said before, it's an effective film meaning that if you came prepared to be scared, horrified and disturbed, you'll get what you're looking for.

If anything, it will certainly make you question why you wanted to see it. My interest lay in it's reputation as being beyond redemption. And truly repulsed and disgusted as I was, I don't find it to be.

- Complaint Dept

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