Friday, October 31, 2008

A Frank Review of "I Spit On Your Grave" (1978)

The Short Version? Woman gets raped forever, then gets bloody revenge.
What Is It? Grindhouse Trash
Who's In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? No... and no means no!

The film originally called as "Day of the Woman" in 1978 eventually launched a thousand rape-revenge flicks upon rerelease in 1980 as "I Spit On Your Grave" with the tagline, "This woman has just cut, chopped, broken, and burned five men beyond recognition... but no jury in America would ever convict her!" The film's poster became a pop icon and it's subject a cultural reference point. Shame that, truthfully, the film is utterly awful and lacks any merit whatsoever.

The film's director has tried to claim a true life incident as inspiration, but the film is a pretty naked reworking of only the most base and exploitative elements of "Deliverance" and "Last House On The Left." The film lacks a score, decent audio, competent direction, coherent screenplay, and dramatic acting outside the calibre of a MadTV skit. After twenty-one minutes of watching our heroine drive a car, read a book, skinnydip, canoe and do some writing without the benefit of dialogue or monologue, the violent harassment by local rednecks begins. At the twenty-four minute mark, the rape sequence begins in earnest.

Actually, calling it a "sequence" downplays the monstrosity of the movie. You are essentially given a three act play running twenty-three minutes centered on a multitude of violations. The worst part, as sickening as this is, is that the acting is so atrocious as to outpace the deviant acts' race to the bottom of the barrel. The simulated sex and violence are so poorly handled, it is almost comical, but even my humor doesn't run that black. This is also the point where any semblance of logical thought or human motivation goes right out the window.

Where to begin? How about the victim's choice not to report the crime, even though she'd tried that exact act during her rape, and despite her seeming knowledge that her attackers were intent on murdering her? If we can work that out, it might explain why, rather than begin her vengeance planning straight away, she goes back to writing her book and lounging around the house? Ooo, ooo-- if we can work that out, maybe we can make sense of her seducing two of her attackers? I don't mean just lulling their defenses down with her feminine wiles-- I mean actually fucking them, consensually, without a condom, before murdering them? Surely, having worked out some reasonably insane motivation behind all of this, we can stop replacing "don't go in the basement!" callbacks with "don't leave a trail of evidence for mass homicide back to your doorstep after you've healed from any sign of your brutal, 23 minute long rape! Haven't you ever seen 'Quincy?' 'Perry Mason?' 'Scooby-Doo Mystery Hour?'"

For fuck's sake, rather than exploit the illusion of her death, she just loiters for ten minutes before being rediscovered, and only then initiated planning for the comeuppance. She doesn't actually turn the tables until an hour and fifteen minutes in (y'know, after her latest round of full-frontal nudity and consensual sex,) meaning she spends just 25 minutes "avenging" her 23 minute rape and torture, and that includes the time she spent fully nude jerking off another assailant in the bathtub (with the clear insinuation she'd already had consensual, probably unsafe sex with him.) Can you feel my disgust at the poor craft and general nature displayed by this film?


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