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I Spit on Your Grave (1978) (dir. Meir Zarchi) ***1/2
Film critic Roger Ebert once said, "attending it was one of the most depressing experiences of my life."  Women's groups joined together in an unsuccessful attempt to outlaw the film, fearing it promoted violence against women.  If anything, though, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (aka Day of the Woman) does the exact opposite.  It is true that the first part of the film is mostly a series of rape scenes directed toward Jennifer (Camille Keaton), a New York freelance writer who secludes herself in a cabin during the summer to begin her first novel.  Four men - all of them lecherous pigs, no matter that one is mentally retarded - with the mentality that "she had it coming" decide to gang up on her one day while she's sunbathing in a canoe.  They rape her not once, not twice, but three times throughout the course of the film, and for that reason, the brutally convincing I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a tough film to watch.  
Ahh, relaxation!
Walking home...
But despite what some critics like Ebert might say, it is a landmark film in the horror genre, one that, although made long after LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, is successful in it's ability to unflinchingly present the horrible realities of rape and violence against women - in no way, shape or form does the movie glorify the acts committed again Jennifer; rather, they're presented as an ugly, disgusting thing.
The second part of the film focuses more on Jennifer's recovery - and after she has overcome the initial shock of her ordeal, she plots her meticulous revenge against each of the guys.  In many ways, this half of the film is harder to take than the rape sequences:  one of them is hanged and dumped into the lake, another is killed with an axe, and another guy is castrated in the bathtub.  In most of these murders, Jennifer uses her charm and ability to flatter in order to get her way - in other words, telling the men what they want to hear will get you far.  And that is basically the theme of the movie, Jennifer's portion in particular. AHHHHH!
It's a gruesome film, no doubt, but not without merits (as Ebert's review would lead you to believe).  By today's standards, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE doesn't seem very well-made, but I think that most of the so-called "problems" were intentional on director Zarchi's part.  There is no musical score, and it isn't because they couldn't afford it - it was an artistic decision, much like everything else in the movie.  If Zarchi had intended his film to act solely as food to the rapists and women-haters out there, he would have merely chopped off the second half of the film and left it at that: presto, now we really have a depraved piece of filmmaking!  Elite's Millenium Edition DVD contains a fascinating director's commentary, where Zarchi goes to great lengths trying to explain his inspiration for this particular kind of story (he came across a girl who had just been attacked and helped her out by taking her to the hospital). 
She got her revenge...
Day of the woman.
I find I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE to be a good film that has unfortunately hidden behind it's sleazy moniker ever since it was released - and the poster art hasn't done much to help it's reputation.  Some people (including myself) will find it a fascinating viewing experience, while others will find it unwatchable.  One thing is for certain: don't show this film to an unsuspecting friend!
- Ryan Clark
All reviews copyright Xploitation Update, 2004.