I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
By: CJ on February 13, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English DD 2.0. Elite Entertainment (USA). 100 minutes
The Movie
Director: Meir Zarchi
Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols and Gunter Kleemann
Screenplay: Meir Zarchi
Tagline:'This woman has just chopped, crippled and mutilated four men beyond recognition… But no jury in America would ever convict her!'
Country: USA
AKA: Day of the Woman; I Hate Your Guts; The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill
In the seedy underbelly of the sub-genre of rape/revenge movies, few are as harsh or cruel as Meir Zarchi's I Spit on Your Grave. Zarchi's treatment of the subject of rape and revenge, and how it can so alter a person, is uncompromisingly brutal and presented in more graphic detail than many would dare to commit to film.

The premise is simple: a young writer, Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton), escapes from the claustrophobic environment of the city in favour of a backwoods retreat in order to write a novel. However, once there, she gains the unwanted attentions of the local miscreants who begin to plague her countryside idyll. It's not long before things go too far and they engage in a sadistic and brutal gang rape, forcing Jennifer to suffer a gruelling ordeal at their merciless hands. Once the deed is done, the retard of their number, Matthew (Richard Pace), is sent back into the house to kill her. He finds himself unable to do this, and simply wipes some of her blood onto the knife. Believing her dead, the youth's retreat back into their dysfunctional lives.

However, Jennifer recovers and heals; though she is obviously still deeply scarred by the experience. She then decides to take matters into her own hands and dispenses her own brand of murderous justice on the four men that had tormented and abused her. One is hung, another is castrated (one of the most unpleasant sequences ever committed to film, in my opinion), one is chewed up in the propellers of a motor boat and the last one is axed.

It's a deeply unsettling and unpleasant viewing experience, that's for sure - but since when was rape supposed to be entertaining? Zarchi's film is an honest one, and presents rape as it is - harsh, brutal, sickening and appalling. The film is designed to shock even the most jaded of viewers; that's the whole point. Zarchi is striving to show the viewer the full horror of rape and also shows how the 'victim' becomes so emotionally charged and changed by the abuse that she becomes the 'aggressor'. But there are no winners in this film, by the time the end credits rolled, we feel that Jennifer has lost a fair chunk of her humanity; robbed by her attackers, if you like. They unwittingly made Jennifer like them; she becomes as heartless and fixated on revenge as they were in their eagerness to have their way with her, come what may.

The film offers no comfortable resolutions - no 'happy-ever-afters'. She is raped and then gets revenge. That's it. But then again, I don't think Zarchi was trying to offer any solutions to this complex scenario, and Jennifer is certainly never presented as any kind of 'heroine'. At no point do we find ourselves cheering her on - in fact, we are deeply shocked by her actions. As terrible as the pain inflicted on her was, we somehow never find ourselves at ease with the course of action she chooses to take.

This is a complex film, and is too easily dismissed as mere exploitation. I'll grant that the film raises more questions than it does answers, but I get the feeling that this was always meant to be a film that would spark debate and engender thoughtfulness in the viewer.

I would highly recommend a watch of this film - but approach with caution if you're new to this territory. Watch it with an open mind and decide for yourself.
Elite have done an absolutely fantastic job of digitally remastering this film with full THX approval. It certainly looks much cleaner and sharper than their previous bare-bones release. The transfer is virtually faultless (the image jitters slightly in places, but it's hardly noticeable and is very infrequent) and looks the best it ever will. The image, however, has been cropped and hard-matted at 1:85:1, but thankfully the framing looks just right.
This release has been given a THX approved 5.1 workout for both Dolby Digital and DTS. However, given the type of film it is, there are no real audio dynamics and the surround effects are not really maximised (and nor do they need to be). It's definitely an improvement on their previous release and the 'dips' in sound seem to have been rectified to a point. But, this was never a technically expensive film, and this is just about what you'd expect from a film with low-budget origins. The sound is perfectly acceptable though, with no hiss or pops, and the dialogue is crisp and clear. Elite have also thoughtfully, for the purists amongst you, provided the original mono track.
Extra Features
Elite have really gone the extra mile, so to speak, to provide extras for this disc. There are two commentaries from Meir Zarchi and drive-in 'specialist' Joe Bob Briggs. Both are entertaining, but the one of real interest is from Zarchi, who offers a highly insightful commentary, talking about everything from shooting locations to censorship problems. A fascinating listen and I would seriously recommend listening to this before making any negative judgement on the film. There are theatrical trailers, TV spots, a still gallery, a gallery of cover artwork and text reproductions of film reviews. Overall this is a very definitive package, and more than you would expect for a film of this type.
The Verdict
This is a powerfully uncompromising film and one that deserves at least one viewing. The disc itself is top-notch, which makes it the only version to own. As I've already said before - if you're unfamiliar with this cinematic territory, approach with caution, as this is a deeply shocking and profoundly disturbing piece of work from director Meir Zarchi. It's also worth noting that, unlike other Elite DVDs, this is coded Region 1.
Movie Score
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