Oh god, the original 1978 version of I Spit On Your Grave, how do I review a film like this? Is it even considered a film? It boasts the longest, most self-indulgent, excessive and unnecessarily prolonged rape scene ever committed to celluloid. Aside from that, the movie really has no redeeming features. It’s poorly made, the acting is non-existent and it’s overly violent and brutal. That being said, it’s a wildly notorious film and its legacy is undeniable. It’s been banned in numerous countries and people have become physically ill while watching it. Famed film critic Roger Ebert said that the film is “a vile bag of garbage…without a shred of artistic distinction,” adding that “attending it was one of the most depressing experiences of my life.” Harsh words indeed.
If you’re unfamiliar with the film’s plot, I’ll give you a quick rundown. It focuses on a young girl named Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton). She travels from New York City to the countryside one summer as she plans to get some peace and quiet so she can write her first novel. Turns out, peace and quiet is the last thing she’ll be getting as a group of locals proceed to harass her and eventually rape her, brutally. Leaving her bloodied and beaten, the local boys think they’re in the clear. Little do they know, Jennifer is still alive and plotting out her revenge, her brutal and vicious revenge that is.
As a critic, it’s very hard to review a film like this. It’s generally known for being just downright terrible yet you can still find a large group of people who call it one of the best revenge movies out there. And then of course there are the people who question how and why something like this was ever made. The film is defined by its rape scene, and how can you review/recommend a rape? Without its rape scene, it really wouldn’t be anything as the violence found during the revenge kill scenes isn’t terribly shocking, at least not nowadays. I Spit On Your Grave seems to exist solely for that rape scene. That being said, the film has gained cult status by now, no doubt, but is it worth a watch?
On a technical front, the film fails miserably. Terrible actors recite terrible dialogue while it’s all captured by some terrible camera work. The budget for this film couldn’t have been any lower and it really shows. No real soundtrack is found here, a severe lack of direction is apparent and the characters are duller than doorknobs and thinner than paper, there is no sense of character to be found with any of them. I could give examples of several of the absolutely ridiculous things that occur with these characters but I’d rather not spoil anything.
As I tried to look for some redeeming feature in the film, I really couldn’t find any. People call it misunderstood and a small handful call it a masterpiece but I really don’t see it. I didn’t have a problem with the remake, as the acting was fine, production values high and there was no over-extended rape sequence. But with the original, I can’t find much to enjoy. I once read that the film was ‘an attack on common sense’, and in some ways it really is. The decisions that the characters make here are just so moronic that you sometimes feel as if they deserve exactly what’s coming to them.
I’m really not sure what director Meir Zarchi had in mind here when making the film. I interviewed him recently and talked to him for a while about the film. He was a great guy and very interesting to talk to but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get a sense as to why he made this film, and the fact that he never really did anything else after it is even more baffling. I’m not exactly pissed off at the film, like so many critics are, I just struggle to understand why it was made.
Perhaps this is just one of those movies that is so absurd that it demands to be seen. It certainly holds a a place in film history and for that reason alone I guess it’s worth a watch. If you’ve already seen it, you know what it’s all about, but if you haven’t and you’re curious, check it out, just don’t expect a great film. It’s worth watching based solely on the fact that you’ve probably never seen anything like it and it’s just such a notorious film, for so many reasons. That being said, it is by no means a good film.
When it comes to the disc, things start to look up, a bit. The film certainly looks better than it ever has but the low budget does still show. A couple scratches pop up here and there and there is also a flicker throughout. Detail isn’t bad and colours are solid. Black levels vary and flesh tones aren’t always consistent. And of course, there is a fair amount of grain. Pretty much, you get exactly what you’d expect from a film of this nature. It doesn’t look great but it is still a thousand times better looking than the original print.
The audio track here isn’t exactly all that great either. It’s fairly simple and adequately delivers its basic sound effects. Dialogue does get muffled in a few scenes though, and at times, it’s quite bad. A couple ambient sounds are present and sound fine but nothing stands out. A pretty low key track overall but aside from the dialogue, there is nothing terrible.
Special features include:
- Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Meir Zarchi
- Audio Commentary by Author/Historian Joe Bob Briggs
- The Values of Vengeance: Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit on Your Grave
- Alternate Main Titles
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
- Poster & Still Gallery
Both commentaries are actually quite good. It’s interesting to hear from Meir and his take on all the criticism surrounding the film. He also covers a bunch of the filmmaking stuff. It sounds like he’s reading from written notes but he still drops a few nice tidbits of trivia here and there. The other commentary, the one with Joe Bob Briggs is very entertaining. It’s informative, often funny and a great listen. The only other worthy special feature, The Values of Vengeance, has Meir Zarchi reminiscing on the film and chatting about it for half an hour. There is a bit of overlap between this and his commentary but it’s still worth checking out.
I Spit On Your Grave is one fucked up film. There’s no doubt about that. It’s certainly not for everyone and there really isn’t anything good about it. That being said, over the years, it has worked its way into film history and for that reason alone, it is worth a watch. It’s kind of like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. A film so terrible that it should be seen for that fact alone. And a film, that like I Spit On Your Grave, has worked its way into film history. The Blu-Ray transfer is nothing special and the special features are mediocre, but if you’ve never seen this film, you may want to give it a watch, if you’re ok with the subject material. It’s just one of those films that you may want to see, at least once.
I Spit On Your Grave is worth the watch simply because of its legacy. Aside from that, it really offers very little.