“I am woman hear me roar!”—Helen Reddy
The 1970s was a renegade paradise for independent filmmaking, pushing the envelope, and spawning a new exploitation subgenre of the revenge flick. A simple formula repeated time and time again with Act I seeing the protagonist endure a terrible occurrence (usually rape, torture, a loved one killed, etc.). Act II would see the victim figuratively lick their wounds to heal before Act III sees the lead recover and seek revenge. Today’s notorious and unforgettable little entry of nastiness is none other than heavily banned, I Spit on Your Grave (1978).
New York City author Jennifer, Camille Keaton of The Lords of Salem (2012), rents an isolated country cottage in Connecticut, seeking seclusion and inspiration while she intends to write her great American novel. Upon Jennifer’s arrival in town, her beauty grabs the attention of a small gang of local hoods, led by Johnny, (Eron Tabor), Stan, (Anthony Nichols), and Andy, (Gunter Kleemann). This is the only feature length film the three actors have a credit for.
As in all sleepy towns back when the American Dream still had some life in it and local groceries were delivered, Jennifer befriends the twenty-something, dimwitted, bike riding, delivery man-boy, Matthew, Richard Pace (only film credit to his name, go figure). Matthew returns back to report in to Johnny and his two cronies relaying information about his new female friend and boyishly describing Jennifer’s anatomy. Then Johnny hatches a plan for the gang to “drop in” on Jennifer so Matthew can lose his virginity. Before you know it, the “Four Whoresman” (WOOO!) humiliate, assault, repeatedly rape Jennifer before leaving her for dead. Unknown to the gang, Jennifer is still very much alive but severely traumatized. After time to heal, Jennifer, with much calculation and seduction, lures and hunts each of the men down for revenge.
I Spit on Your Grave was written/directed by Meir Zarchi of Don’t Mess with My Sister! (1985). Keaton was married to Zarchi at the time when he cast her for the lead role (what a sick husband). Zarchi has acknowledged that Spit was inspired by The Bravados (1958), The Virgin Spring (1960), and Death Wish (1974). Filmed on the meager budget of $650,000, Spit has gone on to reach cult-classic status and noted as being one of the most violent, hard to watch mainstream movies ever made hence the justifiable “X” rating by the MPAA upon its release.
At times, Spit can be downright repulsive, and the extreme brutality of Jennifer at the cottage by the degenerates seems to go on for half the movie for our protagonist (25 minutes). This sexual brutality is exhibited with minimum dialogue which only intensifies the visual assault even more. Spit repulsed some, including crew members who quit during the filming stating they couldn’t take the gratuitous subject matter. The brutality inflicted on Jennifer is disturbing to say the least and makes the shocking behavior of The Last House on the Left (1972), look like a bad day on The Mickey Mouse Club (1955).
Jennifer’s revenge tactics are very imaginative and one memorable scene will warn all men from sharing a bathtub with a partner ever again. Jennifer’s revenge is justified and you want the culprits to receive their punishment. There is one dangerous element to Spit, though she was put through hell, the audience begins to rally with Jennifer and join her on a bloody trip into depravity. Upon Spit’s conclusion, if you are a good natured, caring individual–the Spit experience will leave you feeling hollow and a bit traumatized yourself, unless you are a true sadist. Spit makes the viewer feel guilty as if you were witness to a heinous crime and you could not help the victim. Spit does express the dark side of humanity and reminds us once again, pure evil is always close and ready to pounce on its prey.
So, if you are a horror hound needing a fix or a movie goer than needs to see a film that will completely flip your world upside and kill any innocence you have left within your being, give I Spit on Your Grave a chance. In 2010, Spit released an ill-fated remake and sequels, so if you are going to do it, do it right and watch the original. There is even an uncut version out there, so have at it, you little sickos. But remember, I warned you as this is going to be one of the most extreme films you ever encounter. If you do decide you are going to watch Spit and you want your mind blown, remember to be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.