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.