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I Spit on Your Grave (1978): A Woman’s Revenge

I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978)

[originally posted 18Jun2001]

Camille Keaton walks away on the movie poster. She's not wearing much.

Keep your eyes on the machete and everything will be okay.
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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).

One of Jennifer Hill's tormentors has gotten his just desserts in a still from the film.

“I’m always so tired by the end of winemaking season!”
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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.

Jennifer Hill (Keaton) stops at a backwoods gas station in a still from the film.

Note to self: ALWAYS fill the tank COMPLETELY before driving into the sticks.
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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.]


About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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