Friday, May 9, 2014

I Spit On Your Grave!


It's a regrettable poster. The image above to advertise I Spit on Your Grave does something the actual movie never does, romanticize the cruel and grim spectacle of sadism and violence which informs this grotesque film. It's an incredibly low-key presentation, doubtless owing to a microscopic budget, but also taking advantage of that limitation to offer up an unblinking and compelling narrative. There is no score to distract the eye, the eye which is forced to confront an awful series of crimes.

I've never seen a movie which more potently made the distinction between the horrifying violence of rape and normal sexual experience. There is no tingle of titillation, no dram of eroticism. This is not a movie about sex, though there are sex acts depicted in it. This is a horror movie, first and last and finally.

A woman comes from New York City to a small house in the country to write a book. She meets and is noticed by several men in and around the small country town. These predatory men then seek her out and violate her sexually multiple times, but fail ultimately to murder her. After her recovery, she draws the men in using their own stupidity and delusions, and eliminates them one by one.


The most interesting thing about this movie is what does not happen. At no time does this woman seek out the authorities. She does try to make a phone call at one point but fails. Later when there is opportunity and time to tell the people in charge what happened, she doesn't make any effort to do so. So there is no indictment of the system in this movie as there so often is in stories of this type. The system does not fail her, leaving her with little choice but to take justice in her own hands. No, she chooses to wreak righteous vengeance without consulting anyone, she makes up her mind. She is in charge of herself as much as she can be throughout this ordeal.

On that level this is a surprisingly empowering movie, and I already know that many will object to that characterization. The woman (portrayed unstintingly by Camille Keaton) is a powerful figure through out the film, choosing always to control situations she can command, and choosing to survive if possible those she can't. She never stops trying to help herself, regardless of the relentless attack she suffers. She keeps moving regardless.

The only off note in the whole movie for me was when she wandered into a church to ask forgiveness for what she intends to do. The events have more than given her sufficient sanction for what she chooses to do and I felt this attempt to appease a diety was her only signal of weakness in the whole story. On the other hand, neither does she rail against God for allowing her to suffer so mightily. A lot of the cliches which adorn less notable stories of this type were mercifully absent.

It's way too easy to make too much of this movie, but I have to confess the sheer power of this horror story was fundamentally gripping. The criminals suffer properly for what they do, the universe is appeased and the woman does it all herself and with no descent into self-loathing. That is what makes the story so effective, her relentless sense of self is admirable throughout.

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5 comments:

  1. In the mid '80s there was a huge fuss in the British press about "video nasties" and this is one of the films that was highlighted as depravity that should be banned. It was indeed banned along with other films like "Driller Killer" although the British Board of Film Classification ( BBFC) has become much more tolerant these days and prefers to make cuts to a film than ban it completely - I think "The Human Centipede" was banned but I'm not sure. I hate films like "I Spit On Your Grave" and all that torture porn stuff and would never watch them.

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    1. Before I actually saw it, I'd have been inclined to agree with you, but this movie isn't torture porn,in that if you get aroused from seeing this, then there's something fundamentally wrong. It might have nudity and violence, but combined as this film does it doesn't seem to be keyed to the lowest intent.

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  2. Have No Desire To See this.
    I'm some what amazed that you included this in your blog!
    Your Blog, your choice. Just does not seem to fit.
    A hope your Great Blog doesn't start going in this direction.
    There are other sites for this kind of semi-porn.
    All The Best
    -Sam

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    1. Sorry my review disappointed. I still would argue the movie is more than mere porn, but I can see the objections. I knew it might be controversial. But rest assured that you won't have to worry about seeing much like it here. It's a startling film in many ways, and I doubt there is another like it.

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  3. ...I agree with you regarding ISOYG's cathartic nature .
    BTW , for trivia/" wacky world of show-biz connections " , you no doubt know that Camille Keaton was Buster Keaton's niece...But , didja know that she ended up marrying (Until his this-century passing .) Sid Luft , father of Lorna...and , more to the point , a Judy Garland ex-husband (He is producer of A STAR IS BORN) , who , after Judy''s demise , presumably brought in by the estate to work on material he'd been connected with the first time around , spent years having his name on relishes/vault diggings/repackages of audio and video material from period of Judy Garland's early-1960s CBS variety show ? The many uses of material from them creded Luft/his company . (Again...after all , IIRC , he was involved with the original shows and fathered two (Didn't-go-into show business Joey the other - Remembering his child-appearance on a holiday episode of the Judy series , I was not surprised ! :-)) children with Judy ~ Anyway , Buster Keaton to Times Square gore/horror to Judy Garland !
    Another funny point , regarding a scene I remember in ISOYG ~ The criminal yokels , when shown gathering around somewhere outside early in the film ~ Had something of a " 'bovver boy "/quast-skinhead/what might be termed a " Clockwork Orange " appearance , in their clothing ~ What , they were Slade fans or something ?

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