I Spit On Your Grave

Dir: Meir Zarchi, 1978


Notice the misprint saying “five men” and “burned”

This review is of the uncut version

The ultimate in exploitation goodness and probably the number one video nasty!

Meir Zarchi’s tale of rape and revenge has reviled and outraged movie goers for nearly forty years. Opinions are divided straight down the middle. Is it a true feminist film celebrating female empowerment? Or is it purely a vile misogynistic fantasy?

The truth is it’s neither. People look too deep into the film. It’s just a revenge film. It’s made to entertain and that’s what it does.

An argument could be made about the length of the triple rape scene. Does it need to have three gang rapes straight after one another? Probably not but you do need to feel justification for Jennifer’s revenge.

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) is a writer who retreats to a secluded cabin to work on her new book. While there some of the locals take a liking to Jennifer and rape her.

Left for dead, Jennifer recovers and deals out her own brand of justice.

Grimy, sleazy and low budget it does make you feel like you need a shower after watching it. But that’s the point. Rape is an horrific and horrendous crime and you are supposed to feel dirty. Rape is not fun. It excellently channels the degradation victims have to suffer with for the rest of their life. And implements a sense of satisfaction that the disgusting bastards have earned their demise.

Very controversial when it was first released the power to shock and has not diminished one bit. It’s still every bit as controversial, now, as it has always been.

In the United Kingdom the film was released on the burgeoning VHS in it’s uncut version. After the implementation of the Video Recordings Act 1984 the film was withdrawn. It had been successfully prosecuted in court for obscenity.

Pre-1984 UK video release with a slight correction in the blurb saying “four men” instead of “five” but with “burned” still written

For many years the film was unavailable in the UK aside from dodgy nth generation pirate copies, or if you was lucky, you could get hold of the original tape. Importing wasn’t an option like it is nowadays so viewers put up with what they could get there hands on.

In 2001, with the departure of chief censor James Ferman, “I Spit On Your Grave” was resubmitted to the board for a possible certificate. It had been seen before but the board hated it and felt it had no artistic merit.

A certificate was issued but only after seven minutes worth of cuts were made to the sexual assaults. Thus, cinephiles in Britain could, once again, watch it legitimately.

It has been tried numerous times to get an uncut certificate but always failed. On a positive note, though, the cuts have lessened to nearly three minutes rather than the previous out of seven. What the board found most troublesome was, what they call, “eroticised rape”. The view is an interesting insight into how the board works and highlights an example of irony so prevalent in the BBFC and censorship in general.

The idea behind the cuts was to prevent men being sexually aroused by the scenes of Jennifer being attacked. But, the only people who found it to be eroticised was the board themselves! I’ve never met anybody who found the sexual assaults erotic. So who, exactly, are they protecting? Themselves?

This is where a core example of why censorship doesn’t work. The BBFC cut the most problematic bits from the rapes, thereby, lessening the shock and power of what rape is. That lessens the impact people should feel about rape. By removing the most vile elements of the attack a great disservice is being dealt to the cause of rape awareness and it’s survivors. Victims deserve so much better.

Thankfully, other countries have woken up to this. Not surprisingly, it has always been available in America. Originally banned in Australia the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) have seen the message and passed it uncut. Only in Britain can we not be trusted.

Jennifer’s justice to her attackers is a frightful display of graphic retribution wholly deserved. Hanging, castration and being chopped to pieces are all in her repertoire of revenge.Famously, the blurb has a misprint. Jennifer only kills four men, not five, and one of the methods is not burning. Incidentally, a rumour that has plagued the film for years is that the girl the cover showing her backside is none other than Demi Moore! The producers insist it is her but, then, they would, wouldn’t they? It would help to sell the film. Moore has stayed quiet on the subject, though. It is known that Moore was dating a member of the crew at the time of filming offering a modicum of support to the claim but nothing concrete.

For a very small budget the effects are very realistic. The acting leaves a lot to be desired but, for amateurs, they do the job. You do hate every one of them which is what counts. The granddaughter of Buster Keaton, Camille as the beautiful Jennifer displays more flesh than any skills of acting but, again, she’s competent. She never really made it outside of this film. A few bit parts here and there but nothing memorable, “A Concrete Jungle (1982)” and Rob Zombie’s “The Lords Of Salem” being notable.

If you can stomach the violence and very unpleasant scenes of rape then give it a watch. It’s not bad. The sense of justice is overwhelming.



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