I Spit On Your Grave/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton of What Have You Done to Solange?) is leaving New York City for the country. She's a writer and needs some peace and quiet so she can work on her new novel. Jennifer is a beautiful, sophisticated woman. As she makes her way out of the city, we can see she's headed for Connecticut. When she arrives in the town she's staying in, she stops at a gas station to stretch her legs and fill the gas tank. The gas station attendant Johnny (Eron Tabor) is polite and tells her to enjoy her summer and she leaves. When Jennifer gets to the quaint little cottage in the woods she immediately relaxes and then decides to go for a swim. Jennifer settles in and unpacks her suitcases and calls the local grocery store for some things. Pretty soon, the delivery boy Matthew (Richard Pace) shows up with bags of groceries and Jennifer and he converse. We can see that Matthew is slightly retarded. Matthew sweetly asks Jennifer if she has a boyfriend and then asks if he can be her boyfriend. That night Jennifer is in her bed trying to write her novel and begins to hear noises outside (this part of the film is very creepy).
Meanwhile, Johnny and his pals Stan (Anthony Nichols), Andy (Gunter Kleeman) and Matthew are on the lake fishing. While they fish they begin talking about Jennifer and how sexy she is. They also talk about how Matthew needs to get laid and that they are going to help him out by visiting Jennifer. The next day, Jennifer is laying in her hammock trying to write and we hear the buzzing of a motorboat coming closer. It's Stan and Andy. As they drive by Jennifer's house, they both stare at her and she looks back. The roaring of the motor annoys Jennifer and she quickly gets up and walks back to her cottage. Jennifer decides to go for a canoe ride and as she paddles across the lake. Soon the sound of the motorboat comes back and we see its Stan and Andy again. This time they fly right near Jennifer's canoe and they begin to taunt her by driving back and forth and whistling and hooting. Jennifer grabs an oar and tries to bat them away, but Stan grabs the canoes towline and pulls Jennifer in the water. Meir Zarchi shoots the action from below Stan's legs in an almost phallic way, and we see that this is a rape beginning to take place. They pull Jennifer's canoe as she screams and they bring it to the shore. The boys grab and grope Jennifer as she gets out of the canoe. They are like wild animals as they chase her through the swamp into the forrest jumping and yelling all the way. Pretty soon Johnny is on top of Jennifer and he begins to rape her. The men look on like they are entertained and we can feel the extreme horror Jennifer is feeling. He rolls off her and they let Jennifer get up. She's now very bloody and muddy and she slowly walks zombie-like into the woods. When Jennifer gets to a clearing, we hear the sound of a harmonica playing (this scene actually reminded me of Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in The West). That eerie, ominous tone rings through your ears letting you know something bad's going to happen. We see its Andy, sitting on a rock, playing a harmonica. Then we notice that the other men are there too. They aren't finished with Jennifer yet. This sequence in the film is the most graphically brutal rape scene I've ever seen. Jennifer finally has the strength to get up and she makes it back to her cottage but she's REALLY beaten and bloody now. She crawls into the house and goes to reach for the phone but suddenly a boot comes into frame and kicks it away from her (this scene made me jump right out of my seat. It was VERY effective!). The men all begin to grab Jennifer again and this time they bait Matthew into raping her. Matthew gets undressed and they all tell him to do it. Now I thought the first rape scenes were harsh, but this one just took the cake. If that wasn't enough desecration, Andy picks up Jennifer's manuscript and reads aloud from it, then tears it up and throws it on the ground. These men not only raped Jennifer four times, they ruined her work as well. These scenes only add to the extreme anger we have been feeling for Jennifer and how her rampage of revenge afterwards is completely justified (NOTE: On the commentary by Joe Bob Briggs he explains that this is the longest rape scene in cinema history. It times in at 25 minutes 19 seconds).
Jennifer begins to recuperate and washes herself off and just mentally breaks down completely. We can really feel the pain she's feeling, but we also have a sense that Jennifer is strong willed and she will overcome this horrific incident. She tapes her manuscript back together torn piece by torn piece. We then see Jennifer sitting outside on the shore of the lake. She is dressed all in black and with her hair she looks just like Frigga in Thriller: A Cruel Picture aka They Call Her One Eye sans eyepatch. I really loved that little touch, I don't know if it was done on purpose or not, but its just a cool little accent. Jennifer's next plan is to get back at her rapist tormenters. Before she goes on her revenge spree, Andy and Stan drive by on their boat to check on her. As they pass, Jennifer stares right at them with daggers in her eyes. In the next scene, all the guys are beating the hell out of Matthew for not doing what he said he did. They call Matthew names and throw his bike in the street and tell him to get lost and never come back.
Jennifer puts on a dark oufit, bandana and sunglasses (she looks like a cool hit-woman) and goes to the gas station where Johnny works. She sees he has a wife and two kids (played by Meir Zarchi's own two kids). Jennifer goes to the local church and kneels down and asks for forgiveness for what she's about to do (look for Writer-Director Meir Zarchi as the organ player). Jennifer calls the local grocery store for a delivery. Matthew hears this and realizes he has to protect himself just in case. He grabs a knife off the supermarket counter and hides it in his shirt, then gets on his bike and rides to Jennifers house. When he gets there, he takes out his knife. Suddenly Jennifer appears from behind a tree. She's dressed in a white see through dress and lets Matthew know she wants him by staring and running into the woods. Matthew takes out his knife and runs after her. When he sees Jennifer, he begins to whine and cry and tell her that she ruined his life and that he has no more friends because of her. She slowly opens the front of her dress and tells Matthew to come closer. Matthew moves towards her and Jennifer sexily unzips his pants and then pulls him ontop of her. Matthew begins humping Jennifer wildly. Jennifer lets him get going, then she grabs something and puts it around his neck in mid-coitus. She pulls the end of the rope and he begins to choke and get up from her. With one last pull, Jennifer ties Matthew up around the tree and he hangs there. Jennifer lets him die completely, then she pulls him down, letting him fall in the water. She takes his bike and throws it in the water too. Score #1 for Jennifer!!
Her next victim is Johnny the gas station attendant-scumbag. Jennifer drives right up to the pump and when Johnny comes to the car he doesn't even blink. Jennifer looks at him with the sexiest lust-filled eyes. She motions for him to get in the car and he hops in. Jennifer drives down a side road and then Johnny gets out and she pulls her gun out on him. Aaron knows hes in trouble but he says "I dont like women giving me orders!". Jennifer tells him to undress and he does. Then he tells her WHY he raped her. This guy is the biggest male chauvenist pig I've ever seen in a movie! He truly believes because he's a man he is entitled to rape women when he wants. The reasons he gives for raping Jennifer are hilariously retarded. She begins to act like she's buying this and she even lets him take her gun! She invites him to her place and in the next scene, she is naked, doing her hair up all sexy while he takes a hot bath. Jennifer gets in the tub with him and begins to massage his neck and rub his chest. As he enjoys this with his eyes closed, we see Jennifer has a little surprise. She reaches down and grabs a knife and quietly brings it into the bath. As Johnny lays back enjoying her hands, she gets him aroused and we hear a slice noise. Johnny doesn't realize it, but he's been CASTRATED!! Johnny begins to scream and freak out like a maniac as Jennifer slowly puts on her robe leaves the bathroom and locks the door behind her. She goes downstairs, puts on some classical music and sits down. With an evil look in her eye she rocks back n' forth enjoying her handiwork. Jennifer takes his clothes and burns them in her fireplace and stores his body in the basement.
The next day Johnny's wife is looking for him. Her kids are there and she asks Stan and Andy where he is, but they dont know. She curses them and tells them to go find him. Back at the lake, Andy throws an axe into their boat and they decide to go finish off Jennifer once and for all. Andy gets in the water and Stan is by himself in the boat. Suddenly, Jennifer swims up to Stan and hops on the boat, she acts like she's coming on to him, then just pushes him off into the water. Jennifer opens the motor up and begins to speed around the lake wildly just like they did at the beginning of the film. Jennifer is now in charge and she's not going to relent. She looks down and sees the axe that was meant for her. As she speeds towards the men Jennifer picks the axe up in one hand ready to bash it into whoever's closest. She brings it down right into Andy's back. Score # 2!! Then she stops the boat and Stan swims over to it and begs her to stop. As he's clutching for his life onto the boats engine, Jennifer looks at him and says" Suck THIS bitch" and starts up the motor and tears Stans manhood to shreds, blood fills the water and she has killed her last scumbag. Score #3!! Jennifer cranks up the motorboat, she stares defiantly forward and triumpantly speeds along the lake as the end credits roll. Now THATS how you end a revenge movie!!!
The rape-revenge film is understandably one of the most controversial kinds in exploitation cinema. Films like I Spit, Thriller: A Cruel Picture (not as good as this one), The Rape Squad and Ms. 45 were shocking to audiences but they also provided women with their own types of heroines. When I Spit on Your Grave was released many critics, including Roger Ebert, spoke out about how they thought the film was despicable and worthless. While on the surface, it's obvious to see why they would think that, when you actually watch the movie today you can see how the director Meir Zarchi used the story to champion women as tough, resilient human beings. To know the film was actually made because of something Zarchi personally witnessed and was his way of dealing with that horrible event makes a big difference in how you view it. This movie is certainly not going to be for everyone and is obviously tough to watch because of the brutal rape sequences but for those willing to see it with an open mind, I think it stands up as a well made and important work of low budget cinema.
NOTE TO READERS: I highly recommend watching this film with the DVD commentary track by Joe Bob Briggs. He explains very clearly the misinterpretations many people and critics have had regarding the movie's controversial content over the years.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.