I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Also known as Day of the Woman, this film was prosecuted in the U.K. — placed on their Section 1 list — while being outright banned in countries like Ireland, Norway, Iceland and West Germany. A 2001 re-release saw seven minutes of the film being cut, mostly the lengthy rape sequence that has earned this film its misogynistic label.

I Spit on Your Grave is easily found across VOD and PPV platforms as well as DVDs and Blu-rays across various imprints.

But somehow, I’ve never seen it. Maybe the giant clamshell with the handwritten must be 18 to rent note frightened me. I mean, I was certainly aware of it, but while most slashers allowed enough voyeuristic fun for teenagers in my small hometown, I Spit On Your Grave just seemed like a bummer trip. And yeah, it is, but I’m glad I’ve finally watched it.

Short story writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton, the Solange of What Have You Done to Solange?) is tough and independent enough to live in Manhattan, but when she rents an isolated cottage in Connecticut, her very presence makes the men of the town wary. Even the mentally challenged man she has been kind of, Matthew, is a party as they abduct and assault her. Johnny, Stanley and Andy then tell the young man to kill her, but he fakes the job and she survives.

They took not just everything from her, but even tore apart the book that she came to this quiet place to complete. Now, as she reassembles the manuscript, she begins destroying the men, starting by making love to Matthew before hanging him and dumping his body in the lake.

By the end of the film, she has become a destroyer, giving Johnny the mother of all ruined orgasms, slamming an axe into Andy and ordering Stanley just as he told her to “suck it” by forcing him into the outboard motor of her boat. 

Is the revenge catharsis enough? I’ve always wondered.

Writer-director Meir Zarchi came up with this movie — his wife typed the script on the very typewriter that Jennifer uses in the film — when he met the survivor of an assault in the mid 70s. He couldn’t sell the idea to anyone, so he made it himself before losing money each time he played it as Day of the Woman, I Hate Your Guts and The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill. He got the Jerry Gross Organization to distribute it and the deal was that they could change the title to anything they wished. Look, no one could rename a movie like Jerry Gross and that’s where we get the best part of this movie, its title: I Spit on Your Grave.

This film was universally hated by critics, but Zarchi had no time for them, saying “”Frankly, I’m not concerned whether it receives bad press or not. It doesn’t touch me one way or the other whatsoever. If you told me that the public does not like it and the critics like it, then there is something very, very bad about that. Who am I reaching? Three-hundred critics around the United States, or 2,000 around the world? It’s really the public that counts, the 20 million who have seen the film around the globe.”

Keaton married Zarchi in 1979 and they divorced in 1982, which is pretty wild considering what she was put through in this film. She was also the fifth wife of Sidney Luft, who was once married to Judy Garland. As for her and Zarci, they’d work together again in 2019 when he made I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu

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