I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978)
[originally posted 18Jun2001]
Meir Zarchi took Craven’s idea (with Last House on the Left) and paid homage with a film that, while not all that good, is a sight better than Last House. It’s also become something of a cult classic for reasons that I’m not sure I understand (nor want to). Again, the plot is simple and savage: Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton, who actually HAS managed to find a few other roles, mostly in what seem to be Italian giallo flicks given the titles) has rented a secluded house on a lake to get out of the big evil city and runs afoul of three of the local miscreants and their toady, a twentysomething seemingly retarded virgin. The miscreants develop a plan to get the toady laid, and, as is to be expected, a bloodbath ensues, starting with an almost forty minute long scene punctuated by three different rapes. I mean, we’re talking nasty here (but by the time Miz Hill gets around to stalking her attackers, I have to say, the viewer is definitely rooting for her).
What about this particularly nasty movie makes it more effective than Last House on the Left? One definite reason is that Zarchi’s scenes of brutalization are a whole lot more explicit than Craven’s, and as such, the viewer has a deeper gut reaction to what’s happening. When Hill starts wandering around like a zombie in the aftermath of the aforementioned forty-minute scene, it’s realistic post-traumatic stress. Also, Zarchi gives more of a human dimension to the attackers; one has a wife and kids, one likes to play the harmonica, that sort of thing; details which cause a viewer to see the bad guys as something more (a little more, but still) than cardboard cutouts. Also, the film itself has a kind of endearing shoestring quality about it. Grainy stock, handheld-camera shots, that sort of thing. Zarchi probably had a budget of five hundred bucks and spent it half and half on fake blood and beer for the crew.
It’s not the best film you’ll ever see, but if you follow IMDB’s recommendation and double-feature it with Last House on the Left, it certainly won’t be the worst film you ever see, either. **
[ed. note 2014: while the review’s subtitle is obvious, it also has a specific meaning in the later influence of this movie.]