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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.78%
Worth A Look: 24.18%
Just Average28.57%
Pretty Crappy: 13.19%
Sucks: 14.29%

5 reviews, 61 user ratings

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I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Why was this movie such a lightning rod?"
3 stars

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert crusaded against it as if it were a threat to every woman in America; their vitriolic reviews led to its being pulled from a Chicago theater. It has been banned in several countries, including England, where it was one of the more notorious Video Nasties. "I Spit on Your Grave" is one of those white-hot controversial films more people have heard about than actually seen, yet does it really deserve its heavy reputation?

First of all, this needs to be said: Writer/director Meir Zarchi may have made this film, but that doesn't mean he's a filmmaker. A surprising percentage of I Spit on Your Grave is flat-out tedious. Zarchi lets his scenes -- particularly the ones in which nothing of import or interest is happening -- meander on interminably. If you're going to watch this -- it's not like you're going to miss much in the way of music (there is none) or dialogue -- I highly recommend doing so in the jocular company of Joe Bob Briggs, whose audio commentary on the Elite Millennium Edition DVD is hilarious, insightful, and essential. Joe Bob will bring you smoothly over the many dull expository scenes, often pausing to point out how boring or illogical they are.

The movie does wield crude and considerable power, though. New York writer Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton, who must be dutifully name-checked in every review as Buster's grandniece) heads for the boonies of Connecticut to work on her novel in peace. She attracts the attention of four louts -- the mostly interchangeable Johnny (Eron Tabor), Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann), and their retarded acquaintance Matthew (Richard Pace). Matthew is a virgin, and the other three men decide to procure Jennifer for him. She is raped three times (once with a beer bottle) and nearly beaten to death; Matthew is entrusted with the task of killing her, but can't bring himself to do it. Jennifer survives, heals, and sets about her revenge.

Perhaps I Spit on Your Grave has bothered people for 25 years now precisely because there's so little art getting in the way of the story: A woman is raped; she takes revenge. As Joe Bob points out, this movie is hardly the only "rape/revenge" film, yet other films like Baise-Moi (or The Accused) have escaped censure. Why pick on I Spit on Your Grave? Well, Siskel and Ebert had themselves to blame for the movie's instant cult status: As soon as you go on TV, red in the face, and denounce a film as sick and degrading, you practically guarantee curiosity. The duo would've been wiser simply to let the movie die in silence.

But there's also a genuine impulse of compassion in this work. Zarchi's famous story is that he himself once encountered a bruised, battered woman who had just been raped. He films the violation scenes in a mood of horror and disgust (and Keaton, who can't do much with dialogue, is great at making us feel the physical anguish the role demands). Yet he doesn't film the revenge scenes -- wherein Jennifer hangs, castrates, axes, and outboard-motors her attackers into the next life -- for cheap thrills, either. We may feel a savage release upon seeing the scum dispatched, but there's no particular relish in Zarchi's direction or in Keaton's performance. It's all rather dispassionate -- almost predetermined. There are odd touches, like Jennifer listening to Puccini while one of her victims dies bleeding and shrieking in another room. I don't think the movie believes in Jennifer's revenge. Disturbingly (for those of us guiltily enjoying the bloody payback), it suggests that what happened to Jennifer took away not her sanity but her humanity, leaving a calloused spot where her soul once was.

This is a difficult and seriously flawed film. But I don't feel it deserves to be hounded into oblivion, nor do I think it needs to be hailed as an overlooked masterpiece of contempt and fury. It is what it is -- a rape/revenge thriller with an unusually intense emphasis on the suffering of the woman. I don't agree that the movie fosters rape fantasies; on the contrary, any reasonably sane man watching the atrocities would cringe and wish he -- or the camera -- were elsewhere. That may be the film's final sin: it doesn't look away. It doesn't eroticize the rape, doesn't soften the rape, doesn't glorify the retaliatory violence. The filmmaking is circa 1910, with silent-movie acting to match.

"I Spit on Your Grave" makes people angry, disturbed, depressed (Ebert's word). Of course it does. The camera just stares, refusing to editorialize or to put a stylistic barrier between you and the cruelty. You are there, and you're not doing anything to stop it.

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originally posted: 12/17/06 22:35:55
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User Comments

8/25/18 Marianne Whyte Camille Keaton's rape scene made me want to try anal sex with my HS boyfriend. 5 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell another sleazy rape and revenge flick 1 stars
4/19/15 stanley welles a powerful bit of revenge cinema 4 stars
7/08/11 moose rapper Monster A Go-Go thinks this movie is "Ho-Hum" lol 5 stars
4/17/11 action movie fan decent very graphic rape revenge film predictable but worth it 3 stars
2/27/11 art a DRIVE-IN CLASSIC! 5 stars
1/07/11 mr.mike Works for genre fans. 4 stars
11/13/10 Yo I never ever want to see this film again. 2 stars
4/17/10 Durwood Weak, fakey rip-off of Deliverance. In real life, country folk have high moral values. 1 stars
10/20/08 Monster A Go-Go The title is the best thing about this notorious but ho-hum revenge flick 3 stars
7/23/08 DM Issues of morality aside, objectively considered, this is a uniformly terrible movie. 1 stars
6/29/08 BNorm Greatest last line of dialougue in film history: "Suck it Bitch!" that's classic 5 stars
3/03/08 Jen Cherry Pretty sad 2 stars
2/17/08 ravindra its just too hot 5 stars
12/19/07 Kirk Must see list for trailer park trash folk!! 1 stars
11/28/07 art AN EXCELLENT slasher movie superb 4 stars
7/11/07 Total Crap I love revenge movies. just like Last House, but with better killings. 4 stars
11/28/06 David Pollastrini good gore with a little irony. 4 stars
6/10/06 jj The move let you that after something bad happon to you you can recover. 4 stars
4/18/06 Dave Vicious unbelievable film. 1 stars
3/26/06 ALBERT love that axe! 2 stars
2/06/06 dupadoit it blows 1 stars
6/21/05 Bruce Lee good 4 stars
3/16/05 Mark Smith Extremely Scary 4 stars
11/09/04 Naomi Great revenge!!!!! Payback is hell !!!!!!! 5 stars
10/15/04 sdsd good 4 stars
7/02/04 Mainlandheathen@yahoo.com Camille Keaton is very sexually erotic in this movie. 5 stars
6/07/04 Ryan Clark Disturbing rape sequences, but Camille Keaton's performance makes it all worthwhile. 4 stars
5/16/04 intelligent single woman this really affected me years ago when I first viewed it--great movie for revenge on men! 5 stars
5/03/04 Joseph Cicala A movie you hate to love... but you can't help it 4 stars
1/26/04 Eric The best porno ever!!!!!! 5 stars
10/17/03 Sugarfoot I spit on this shit! 1 stars
7/23/03 Max Totally repulsive, the worst movie ever made!!! 1 stars
4/12/03 Zargo great fun, but i don't see it as anything feminist or shit like that 5 stars
3/01/03 STG3 Christopher Norman Kulik Watch Millenium Edition on DVD, listen to the commentaries; Ebert doesnt know shit!!! 5 stars
3/01/03 becky The bathtub scene is one of the best in movie history...my girlfriends and I went nuts!!! 5 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Surprisingly involving; great full-frnotal nudity!!!! 4 stars
12/21/02 Pigwidgeon A servicable antidote to right-wing fratboy whining about "feminazis" 3 stars
11/23/02 Charles Tatum Ebert is right- the absolute worst film ever made 1 stars
8/02/02 artemishia hey, Horrorluver, robert ebert doesnt know shit! this movie kicks ass! 4 stars
4/28/02 Sugarfoot A perverse pleasure to watch the woman get revenge on the guys 3 stars
4/02/02 Edfink Lombardo Disturbing to the point of discomfort...This film never should have been made...Total shit 1 stars
2/05/02 twh repulsively interesting 3 stars
6/12/01 King Jackass The first 70 minutes or though suck, but once she gets her revenge it gets better. 2 stars
2/26/01 Mike tunesdj.com Many cult classics are poorly directed, and acted, but as far as one of the BEST this rates 5 stars
2/24/01 Jacob Myers I watched this with my mother 5 stars
2/20/01 Rocket Boy So bad...so good... 3 stars
2/13/01 Bully very good 5 stars
2/06/01 m Violent? Of course. Exploitation? Nah! 4 stars
12/29/00 Maggie it was so disturbing! why the hell would someone make a movie like this? i had nightmares!! 2 stars
11/20/00 Arthur A film that kicks ass, a very insperational film 5 stars
11/15/00 MiS^DeMeAnOr bad bad acting, slow movies, but i halfway enjoyed watching her get her revenge! 3 stars
6/15/00 DAVID This may of been bad film making but i still enjoyed the movie and didnt take it seriously! 3 stars
4/16/00 Bob Bobson this movie sucked ass!!! 1 stars
1/05/00 william christiansen this is one unforgettable movie that rates closely with Caligula....YYYYYeck!!!!!!!!!!! 2 stars
12/09/99 Hutson Olsen I Spit on Your Grave is an imperative watch for all those who enjoy scum in filmdom. 5 stars
11/22/98 little jerry Has the peculiar effect of being a trash film that turns on you.Impressively directed. 5 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob Both from a historical and social perspective, this trash-a-thon still holds up! 4 stars
10/15/98 {{{OZ}}} As an adrenaline revenge fest, it certainly get's you going. It's awful, but trashy fun. 4 stars
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  02-Feb-1978 (R)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2011


  02-Jul-1978 (X)

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