New York magazine writer Jennifer Hills (Keaton) is writing her first novel, and decides to spend the summer in a cottage on a lake in the countryside, where she can write it undisturbed.
Three local men, two ne'er-do-wells and a gas station manager, are disturbed by Jennifer's independence, and periodically harass her by driving by her cottage in their speedboat, or making sounds at night. One day, while Hills is relaxing in her canoe, two of the men surprise her in their speedboat, grab her boat's towrope and tow her to shore. As she tries to escape, she's met by the other two men in their group and she realizes that they had planned this abduction. It appears they have done so ostensibly so their mildly-retarded friend Matthew can lose his virginity. Jennifer fights but is chased by the men through the forest. They capture her and brutally sodomize and rape her repeatedly in a lengthy and graphic sequence. After she crawls back to her house they attack her again. Matthew finally rapes her after drinking alcohol, but says that he can not climax with the other men watching. While she is being tortured, the other men ridicule her book and rip up the manuscript. As she passes out, the men order Matthew to stab her in the heart, and then leave. Matthew cannot bring himself to do this, and dabs the knife lightly in her blood so it looks as if he killed her.
In the following days, a traumatized Jennifer pieces both herself and her manuscript back together. She goes to church and asks for forgiveness, and then begins carrying out a plan.
First, she lures Matthew back to her cabin and entices him to have sex with her under a tree. As he becomes oblivious to the surroundings around him, she strings a noose around his neck and hangs him. She then cuts the rope and drops the body in the river.
She picks up one of the men at the gas station where he works—he thinks she is attracted to him and wants him. She then stops halfway to her house and turns a gun on him. She orders him to take off all his clothes. He tells her that what happened was all her fault and he feels no guilt—she enticed all of the men by walking around with sexy legs and low-cut tops. She acts as if she believes him, and lowers her gun. She invites him back to her cottage for a hot bath. She manually stimulates him in her bathtub, and tells him she killed Matthew. He doesn't believe her. As he nears orgasm, she picks up a knife she has hidden under the bathmat (which she took from Matthew—he had brought it with him to kill her) and cuts his genitals. He screams and calls out for his mother while bleeding to death. Calmly, she leaves the room and locks him in from the outside. He dies from blood loss and she disposes of him in her basement. She burns his blood-stained clothes in her fireplace.
The two remaining men take their motorized boat to Jennifer's cabin, with an axe in hand. As they attack her, she escapes with the boat and the axe. She then swings the axe into one man's back. The other man swims up, grabs hold of the motor, and begs Jennifer not to kill him, telling her that their treatment of her was the other men's idea. She quotes back to him what he said when she asked for mercy: "Suck it, Bitch!" and turns on the motor, disemboweling him before speeding away. the film ends with a shot of Jennifer smiling as she speeds away
- Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills
- Eron Tabor as Johnny
- Richard Pace as Matthew Lucas
- Anthony Nichols as Stanley
- Gunter Kleemann as Andy
- Alexis Magnotti as Attendant's Wife
- Tammy Zarchi as The Children
- Terry Zarchi as The Children
- Traci Ferrante as Waitress
- William Tasgal as Porter
- Isaac Agami as Butcher
- Ronit Haviv as Supermarket Girl
The movie was originally released under the title Day of the Woman (the title preferred by Zarchi), although it was also shown under the title I Hate Your Guts and The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill. The title was finally changed to I Spit on Your Grave in a 1980 re-release.
The movie is followed by 1993's Savage Vengeance. Camille Keaton reprises her role as Jennifer.
This movie earned an R rating upon its original American release in 1978. Camille Keaton (the grand-niece of Buster Keaton) won a Best Actress award for her role in this movie at the 1978 Catalonian International Film Festival in Spain.
Critical reception Edit
I Spit on Your Grave received negative reviews from critics. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a thumbs down, referring to it as "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." He mentioned in his review a female member of the audience (one of many people who randomly talked aloud) who had "feminist solidarity for the movie's heroine". He wrote, "I wanted to ask if she'd been appalled by the movie's hour of rape scenes". Ebert was also one of many to cite the movie's poor production quality as a weakness in addition to the scenes he found offensive, stating "The story of 'I Spit on Your Grave' is told with moronic simplicity. These horrible events are shown with an absolute minimum of dialogue, which is so poorly recorded that it often cannot be heard. There is no attempt to develop the personalities of the characters - they are, simply, a girl and four men, one of them mentally retarded. The movie is nothing more or less than a series of attacks on the girl and then her attacks on the men, interrupted only by an unbelievably grotesque and inappropriate scene in which she enters a church and asks forgiveness for the murders she plans to commit". Ebert also included it on his "most hated" list and considered it to be the worst movie ever made. Both Ebert and fellow critic Gene Siskel blasted the movie on their television program Sneak Previews. In a later episode, Siskel and Ebert chose the film as the worst film of 1980. Siskel would join Ebert in calling the film one of the worst ever made.
Critic Luke Y. Thompson of The New Times stated that "defenders of the film have argued that it's actually pro-woman, due to the fact that the female lead wins in the end, which is sort of like saying that cockfights are pro-rooster because there's always one left standing". Film critic Mark Kermode has opined that it is "deeply, deeply problematic at the very best of times" and is not as interesting as earlier exploitation films such as The Last House on the Left. Critic David Keyes named it the worst film of the 1980s.
Encyclopedia of Horror notes that the film attracted much debate for and against, frequently involving people who clearly had not actually seen the film. "The men are so grossly unattractive and the rapes so harrowing, long-drawn-out and starkly presented it is hard to imagine most male spectators identifying with the perpetrators, especially as the film's narrative structure and mise-en-scene force the spectator to view the action from Keaton's point of view. Further, there is no suggestion that she 'asked for it' or enjoyed it, except, of course, in the rapists' own perceptions, from which the film is careful to distance itself." The book continues that the scenes of revenge were "grotesquely misread by some critics" as Jennifer only "pretends to have enjoyed the rape so as to lure the men to their destruction", and that in these scenes the film is critiquing "familiar male arguments about women 'bringing it on themselves'" as "simply sexist, self-excusing rhetoric and are quite clearly presented as such".
The initial criticism was followed by reappraisals of the film. Michael Kaminski's 2007 article for the website "Obsessed with Film", titled "Is 'I Spit on Your Grave' Really a Misunderstood Feminist Film?" argues that, when understood within the context in which director Zarchi was inspired to make it, the movie may be equally appropriate to analyze as "feminist wish-fulfillment" and a vehicle of personal expression reacting to violence against women.
A reappraisal was made by Carol J. Clover in the third chapter of her 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Clover notes that she and others like her "appreciate, however grudgingly, the way in which [the movie's] brutal simplicity exposes a mainspring of popular culture." Clover further argues that the film's sympathies are entirely with Jennifer, that the male audience is meant to identify with her, and not with the attackers, and that the point of the film is a masochistic identification with pain used to justify the bloody catharsis of revenge. Clover wrote that in her opinion the film owes a debt to Deliverance. The British feminist Julie Bindel, who was involved in pickets outside cinemas in Leeds when the film was released, has said that she was wrong about the film and that it is a feminist film.
Censorship and film bans Edit
Many nations, such as Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and West Germany, banned the film altogether, claiming that it "glorified violence against women". Canada initially banned the film, but in the 1990s decided to allow its individual provinces to decide whether to permit its release. Since 1998, some provinces (such as Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Quebec) have released the film, with a rating that reflects its content.
The censored American version of the film was released in Australia in 1982 with an R 18+ rating. In 1987, the film survived an appeal to ban it. It continued to be sold until 1997, when another reclassification caused its ban in Australia. In 2004, the full uncut version was awarded an R 18+, lifting the seven-year ban. The Office of Film and Literature Classification justified this decision by reasoning that castration is not sexual violence (Australian censorship law forbids the release of films that depict scenes of sexual violence as acceptable or justified).
In the United Kingdom, the film was branded a "video nasty". It appeared on the Director of Public Prosecutions's list of prosecutable films until 2001, when a heavily cut version which extensively edited the rape scenes was released with an 18 certificate. All subsequent releases of the film have received similar cuts.
In New Zealand, the uncut version of the film (101 minutes) was classified in 1984 as R20 with the descriptive note "Contains graphic violence, content may disturb". Other versions with shorter running times (96 minutes) were also classified in 1984 and 1985, and received the same classification.
The Irish Film Board has again banned the film from sale. Having been banned for many years in the country, the new Blu-ray and DVD uncensored edition has been prohibited from purchase by retailers due to the nature of the film.
Zarchi's inspiration and responses to criticism Edit
In the commentary for the Millennium Edition, Zarchi said he was inspired to produce the film after helping a young woman who had been raped in New York. He tells of how he, a friend, and his daughter were driving by a park when they witnessed a young woman crawling out of the bushes bloodied and naked (he later learned the young woman was taking a common shortcut to her boyfriend's house when she was attacked). They collected the traumatized girl, returned the daughter home, and quickly decided it was best to take the girl to the police rather than a hospital, lest the attackers escape and find further victims.
They quickly decided that they made the wrong decision — the officer, whom Zarchi described as "not fit to wear the uniform", delayed taking her to the hospital and instead insisted that she follow formalities such as giving her full name (and the spelling), even though her jaw had been broken and she could hardly speak. Zarchi insisted the officer take her to the hospital and he eventually complied. Soon afterwards the woman's father wrote both Zarchi and his friend a letter of thanks for helping his daughter. The father offered a reward, which Zarchi refused.
In the same commentary, Zarchi denied that the film was exploitative, and that the violent nature of the film was necessary to tell the story. He described actress Camille Keaton as "brave" for taking on the role.
The film was unofficially remade in 1985 as Naked Vengeance, a low-budget thriller shot in the Philippines. CineTel Films has acquired rights to remake I Spit on your Grave 2010 and has planned a Halloween 2010 worldwide theatrical release. The movie is being produced by CineTel president and CEO Paul Hertzberg and Lisa Hansen, with Jeff Klein, Alan Ostroff, Gary Needle and Zarchi as executive producers. Filming began on November 2, 2009, with Steven R. Monroe directing and starring new-comer Sarah Butler.