A woman who is brutally raped during a cabin retreat seeks retribution against her attackers who left her for dead.
You know, back in 1978 when I was just a Black Saint in training i took in a movie with a bunch of my acolytes (yes I had them way back then as well). It was originally called “Day Of The Woman” but apparently wasn’t making a lot of money under that title so the distributor at the time changed the title into something a little more marketable. They changed the title to “I Spit On Your Grave”. That was a brilliant move on their part. With that title & a provocative poster image of a woman with her back facing the viewer in tattered clothing scarred & Bruised and most importantly holding a knife…by it’s blade. They had themselves a winning campaign. But was it a good movie?
I can tell you that all of us were sufficiently excited to be entering the bijou even though we really had no idea what the movie was about. Well we soon found out that it told the tale of a woman (Camile Keaton, Buster’s granddaughter)! who rents a secluded cabin in the woods to work on a book she’s trying to write. She figures the seclusion is what she needs to get her creative juices flowing. Unfortunately, She gets noticed by the neighborhood rednecks & they in time enter her cabin & rape her…repeatedly. Now I have to admit that being the youngsters that we were we were actually titillated at the actions taking place on the screen. It’s not that we were pro rape, far from it. But it was fairly graphic sex taking place on the big screen & at that tender age we were for lack of a better word….excited.
Now let me make something completely clear to everyone reading this before you all get your panties in a bunch, Rape is a detestable action, whether it be man on woman, man on man or any other combination your sick little minds can think of. The film doesn’t glorify rape but I’ll be damned if it didn’t spend a lot of it’s running time on it rape scenes. I said scenes because Ms. Keaton is raped repeatedly by 4 men inside & outside of her cabin. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the original but I do remember the rape scenes going on seemingly forever. I still wonder to this day how it must’ve felt filming those scenes both for Ms. Keaton & the 4 actors who performed those heinous & sexually explicit scenes. To this day they are very disturbing & a tribute to director Meir Zarchi’s skill in choreographing what had to be very unsettling set pieces for all involved.
Of course, in the end she gets her revenge on all of them & the score is settled. These scenes were very graphic as well but she comes out on top & kills her attackers. All is well…or is it? We never do find out. All the film gives us in the end is a woman who finds the inner strength to fight back & avenge herself but we never get a sense of what her life will be like afterwards. Can she live a normal life again? Could she have a healtthy sexual relationship with anyone, man or woman, again? We never find out & this I find to be the flaw in the film. But then again I don’t think Zarchi had that in mind. He wanted to make a movie about an ncomfortable subject with no gloves on & he did. The film was a success financially if not critically.
Here we are now 32 years later & director Steven R. Monroe working with the original Zarchi script with some input from screenwriter Stuart Morse & production company “Family Of The Year productions(!) have remade the movie & on top of that are planning to release it unrated. It takes guts to release any movie unrated nowadays. No newspaper will accept ad’s for it. I don’t think many theatres will screen it at all. So I believe that they’re hoping that the original films repuation & word of mouth will get them some decent box office.
The film is basically the same as the original except for a couple of extra characters, one of whom is a sheriff who gets in on the rape. The film opens with our heroine/victim (I really don’t know how to describe her since she’s basically both) driving to the cabin. As she’s driving the title of the movie appears on the screen. No “Starring” credits…actually no credits at all. Just the title. her name is Jennifer & she is played by a very brave actress by the name of Sarah Butler who is not only a stunning woman but a very good actress at well. I wish the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & sciences would pay atttention to films like this to see a performance like hers. She is amazing & really gives it her all.
Jennifer stops for gas & directions at the local gas station where the local rednecks it around & do basically nothing but spit, pump gas & eat junk food. One of them, Johnny (Jeff Branson) makes a play for her & she laughs it off but unintentionally knocks him over spilling windshield wiper fluid over him much to the delight of his cohorts. She apologizes profusely & eventually leaves to her destination. Once there she unpacks a whole lot of wine & gets settled into her new abode for the next few months.
Little does she know that she is being videotaped by Stanley (Daniel Franzese) from a distance & she usually in some state of undress when he’s filming her. She finds that her toilet isn’t flushing at all & the water coming from the tap is brown so she can’t bathe or use the restroom. She makes a call to the owner of the cabin & he sends over rapist #3, Matthew (Chad Lindberg). Matthew is seemingly retarded or at the very least autistic. He is constantly snapping rubber bands that he wears around his wrist in a ritualistic fashion. It seems to keep him grounded. He fixes her problem & in appreciation she jumps up & kisses him which he instantly recoils from. She apologizes but he leaves without payment.
Rapist #4 is named Andy & is played by Rodney Eastman. He is constantly combing his hair in the desperate hope someone would notice other than his friends it would seem. I should point out that all of the male characters especially Jeff Branson & Andrew Howard (Sheriff Storch) play their roles to the hilt & are especially sleazy. None of them save for the Sheriff seem to ever wear clean clothing & ooze voyeurism from their every pore except for Matthew who just seems to be along for the ride. They make fun of him constantly & it’s their idea to attack Jennifer & have Matthew lose his virginity to her.
She returns to the cabin after an afternoon jog to find them there waiting for her & despite her protests they humiliate her by having her fellate the wine bottles she has while holding them to their respective crotches. Despite her pleas for mercy the humiliation continues until She manages to escape & finds the sheriff & Earl Woodson (Veteran character actor Tracey Walter) hunting in the woods. She relates to the sheriff what had just happened to her & the sheriff sends woodson back to the garage to see if any of the 3 are there & he accompanies Jennifer back to her cabin.
Once there, the cabin is seemingly empty & as she is describing what had happened to her the sheriff finds some Marijuana. He asks if it is hers (it is) but she says no. But since the joint had lipstick on it the sheriff knows she’s lying & calls her on it. She is forced to admit she lied about the Marijuana but sticks to her story about the attack. But the sheriff, seeing all the wine & Marijuana doubts her story. At this point her attackers reappear from different parts of the cabin welcoming the sheriff to their “party”. He was in on it all along.
This is when the rape begins. Now I must say that since this film is being touted as “Unrated” I was expecting a really graphic, grueling rape scene. Not to say it wasn’t graphic but it wasn’t anywhere near as graphic as the rape scenes in the original. Nor was it as prolonged as in the original. But the scene is very unsettling & uncomfortable for much of the audience to watch. You could hear a pin drop on a cotton ball in the theatre during the scene. The audience sat in stunned silence. All of them have a go at her, the sheriff making the point that he’s an “Ass-Man” himself and rapes her anally. Very disturbing stuff indeed.
When they are done she gets up filthy & naked and walks outside. To where? She doesn’t know. She just up and to the best of her ability leaves the cabin & walks away in a great deal of pain. The 4 of them follow her to a bridge where the sheriff is about to shoot her in the back to eliminate the evidence when all of a sudden she speads her arms apart & drops, not jumps into the river below. They wait for her to resurface but she doesn’t. Assuming she drowned herself after watching for any sign of her. The sheriff oders the others to dismantle her car 7 burn the cabin down to the ground.
Here is where the film gets shaky. In the original the victim was left alone to go back to her cabin in the woods. A beaten woman. There was never any talk of killing her. It didn’t make sense then & it still doesn’t but her attackers in the original just leave her be after the atrocities put upon her. Jennifer is presumed dead. But after some time goes by she starts making her prescence known to her attackers. Where has she been? Where did she get clothing from? She does make a reference to what she had to eat to survive in the woods while planning her revenge (rats apparently). But the script doesn’t tell us any more than that. She even ends up with a Black Corvette in the most graphic revenge scene. Where did that sucker come from? Plot holes people…plot holes. I know that movies like this one live & die on scenes that don’t add up. These scenes are usually forgtten about because there’s usually a big payoff directly afterwards. So audiences forget about the scenes that didn’t make sense earlier. But come on now…she could not have done what she did after jumping off of that bridge. Hell…she couldn’t even hold her breath that long after jumping into what I assume was a cold river completely naked. She should’ve died of exposure soon afterwards. But as most screenwriters & directors will tell you: If what was supposed to happen actually happened, we wouldn’t have a movie would we?
I have told you way too much of the story already. What I want to end this review on is why I feel the film is being released unrated. Her revenge scenes go way beyond the pale & way beyond what the comeupances for the rapists in the original were. We are talking major violence here folks. HARD, HARD, HARD R rated violence. There was no way the ratings board would let these scenes go without significant cuts. The rape scenes, while graphic, cut away on occasion. Except for the sheriff’s rape scene which was on the screen a little too long to my liking. I believe it was to contrast the fact that the sheriff is married with a young daughter & another child on the way to a lovely woman who obviously loves him dearly. His wife not knowing that he is a degenerate makes the scenes the family have together that much more tragic. Jennifer dispatches each one of them in a way they degraded her. And very ingeniously as well but once again i have to ask “How was she able to do what she did considering the condition she was in the last time we saw her on the screen”? It just isn’t possible. But once again, if she doesn’t come back as she did there would be no movie. The original was much more believable in that Ms. Keaton used her feminine wiles to lure each of her attackers to their deaths.
But you know what? I still liked the movie. I wasn’t crazy about the rape scenes but that’s what the movie is about basically so I can’t bitch about them. But man oh man did I get off on the retribution scenes. Fuck, there are some f*cking ass kicking gore scenes in the 2nd half of this movie & a couple of very unique kills. Really unique kills beleive me. I’ve seen em’ all but there was one here (The Sheriff’s) that I’ve never seen before & it kicked the audience in the teeth!
The film ends directly after the last kill. a last look at Jennifer’s face & the screen goes black & then we get our credits. Once again I have to point out Sarah Butler’s truly outstanding acting especially in the first part of the film, She is so pretty & so likeable that when the sh*t hits the fan your heart really goes out to her. I’ve never seen her before but I will be following her career from her on. All of the male roles are played deftly as well but I think it’s fairly easy to be greasy on screen you know what I mean? That being said, all of the male actors were uniformally excellent.
I do have one more quibble about the male roles though. Whenever Jennifer had one of her torturers dead to rights & was about to off them, they all cursed her calling her a bitch, dirty whore, you get the idea. I wonder why though? Though it wouldn’t have mattered I would’ve begged for mercy or at least made my peace to whichever god I believed in. But these guys just egged her on man. Even though they knew they were goners. The sheriff gave her the “I have a famly” speech for a hot minute but then just started cursing her & said he’d meet her in hell. Fuck dude…try a little tenderness next time you’re begging for your life. You never know…
All in all, “I Spit On Your Grave” gets 3 1/2 shrouds from The Black Saint. It’s a good film, not a great one. And the massive plot hole regarding Jennifers reappearance just killed it for me a bit. But if you get a chance to see it…please do. As I said earlier the film is being released unrated so it isn’t going to be playing at too many cineplexes if you catch my drift. And I believe that we have to support independent filmmakers in their endeavours, good or bad. One of them could be the next Carpenter or the next Cronenberg. And if we don’t support these films we might be missing out on an amazing film from one of these artists in the future. So do as The Black Saint says and SEE THIS MOVIE!!