(This article talks about sexual violence and may be a trigger warning for some.)
Our culture is very desensitized to a lot of things these days, whether it’s practical FX that they see on screen or whether it’s real life horror. There are films which convey the real life horror; it’s as if we are truly experiencing them. It’s the real horror, which can be something far more scary and confronting than any slasher with a dumb teenager who trips up in the woods and BANG knife to the face!
In 1978 the world was exposed to brutality and honesty with the release of I Spit on Your Grave. While no company would distribute it, it did manage to reach an audience at local Drive-Ins. But what made this film have the notoriety it has today are several things; the extremely misinformed film reviews, and of course being on the Video Nasties list. Having such a negative aura surrounding the film has been a blessing and a curse. While the bad press has made a lot of people just make up their minds on the film without seeing it, there are a group of people out there that chose to watch it with an open mind; some understood the narrative, and some didn’t. A lot of people have said that this film is pure trash, and that all it is doing is exploiting a very serious subject and ‘making fun’ of it. But again these narrow minded views could not be more wrong.
Camille Keaton’s portrayal of Jennifer was astounding. You see her character go on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and everything is played so naturally. You couldn’t have just had any actress with a decent pair of breasts and a pretty face to play the role of Jennifer. This film needed an emotionally strong woman who could delve inside her psyche and bring forth that honest emotion that the audience could connect with; and Camille Keaton did just that.
In a lot of exploitation films of the 70s and 80s, the musical score was a big part of the film that would bring out emotion in the audience. However in I Spit on Your Grave, there is little to no music. Even the opening title sequence is without a score, but having zero music adds to the reality, it isn’t a distraction. The film’s director Meir Zarchi didn’t hide the fact that this film was going to be brutal, and he made the potential viewers of this film aware of what they were getting themselves into; so why try and disguise the honesty with an elaborate musical score?
I Spit on Your Grave touched a nerve within me, but I could never turn the off the film. You see the rapes for what they are; you see them with little to no musical score so there’s no distraction. You see camera angles that reflect Jennifer’s pain, as well as the depraved look on her rapists face. You see the moments leading up to it, during, and the aftermath. You see a natural progression of what happens to a woman physically and emotionally and how she deals with this pain. I Spit on Your Grave is relevant to film history, not because it was banned, and not because it was controversial; it’s relevant because it’s honest.
Sure it’s a revenge film and she gives the men what they rightfully deserve, but this isn’t just an exploitation film that degrades women and gives a male viewer something to masturbate over. What really got to me more than just the rape scenes themselves are the aftermath of what has happened to her. Seeing her crawl away, covered in dirt, cuts, bruises and blood and looking into those dead eyes, hit my emotions to the core and I even cried. They bestowed a depraved act on her because they saw her as a tease, a whore, something that is just empty with nothing to offer besides what was in between her legs, and because of that act she really does feel dead inside. When watching I Spit on Your Grave I feel hurt, I feel upset, and I feel disgusted that something so despicable can be done to another human being. But feeling those emotions doesn’t make me automatically write off the film and see it as negative. I see this film as a reality, I see what she has gone through and how her experience resonates my past. I connect with this and I am not ashamed to admit it.
Films like I Spit on Your Grave shouldn’t be banned because governments, religious groups and parents think this will influence kids and culture; films aren’t the root of all evil. Culture is already vile, because we have been feeding ourselves with toxic bullshit and with each day that passes we start to change our mind on all the things that are bad for us. And before you know it, it becomes more important to keep rapists out of jail rather than in jail, and the victims aren’t the victims anymore; they are just simply known as sluts. That is how society thinks. And now thanks to social media, and cameras on your mobile phone you can now HUMILIATE the victim and spread it online and you can get away with it, wow what a time to be a rapist! As a culture we have allowed this complacency and we have let it happen for so long, yet we act surprised by what is happening in the world, and since we are in denial we blame a notorious film for every single wrongdoing. If you want empty calories then by all means keep turning on your trash TV and become more and more soulless, but if you want truth then turn on a powerful film like I Spit on Your Grave, it might wake you up to your brain dead society.