I Spit On Your Grave (1978): Yell! Magazine’s Classics Of Exploitation Series



Directed by Meir Zarchi Starring Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace
Cinematography by Nouri Haviv Film Editing by Meir Zarchi & Spiro Carras

101 min - Horror/Exploitation - 22 November 1978 (USA)

Other than Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave is the most famous of all the rape/revenge exploitation films. The film was originally released as Day of the Woman in 1978 in a short theatrical run. In 1981, it was rereleased in theaters as I Spit on Your Grave. Again the film’s time in theaters was short mostly due to negative reviews from critics (the most famous being Roger Ebert’s condemnation).

I Spit on Your Grave stars Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills, a writer who leaves the bustling city of New York to write her next novel in the rural countryside. She rents a house at Parkhill Lake and on her trip she stops at a local gas station to fill her tank and ask for directions. We are introduced to the station attendant, Johnny (Eron Tabor), and his two hoodlum friends, Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann). While Johnny tends to Jennifer’s car he has a casual conversation with her, and Andy and Stanley play a knife game in the grass nearby.

Although Johnny is acting politely, he and his two friends look to be unpleasant characters, judging from their dress and ownership of a switchblade. Being the middle of the day, Andy and Stanley seem to be unemployed hangers-on to their leader, Johnny.

Not a shy woman, Jennifer reaches the house and is so enraptured with the riverside location she immediately undresses and goes for a swim. This gives the audience the first glimpse of nudity. It’s also director Meir Zarchi first opportunity to create sexual arousal in the viewer, a response he will soon turn to disgust, followed by horror.

After a short swim, Zarchi cuts to Jennifer inside the bedroom of the house unpacking. When she puts some clothes in the top drawer of a dresser, she discovers a pistol of unknown origin. The director is telling us that further into the film Jennifer will be in danger and will use the gun in some way. The swim foreshadows the sex, the gun foreshadows the violence: If theater-goers weren’t paying close attention before, they were now.

The doorbell rings and now we meet mentally challenged grocery delivery boy Matthew (Richard Pace). Jennifer is somewhat surprised that Matthew found the place (we must assume Jennifer called in a grocery order as it wasn’t shown in the film). The director is now telling us Jennifer’s location is secluded and out of the way to any visitors. Matthew informs Jennifer he knows the area well as he has delivered there numerous times.

After Matthew leaves Jennifer, we see him join up with Johnny and his friends at the gas station. Matthew brags about seeing Jennifer’s breasts and they all kill the rest of the day by going fishing and talking about screwing women from the city.

The next day we find Jennifer near the river writing while in a hammock. Two of the hoodlums are in a motorboat and they show off speeding around in circles like idiots. Jennifer cannot continue writing with the disturbance so she leaves and goes inside the house.

Jennifer continues writing her book into the evening until she hears strange noises coming from outside the house. She investigates, but finds nothing.

The next afternoon we find Jennifer out on the river sunbathing in a canoe. Stanley and Andy come by in the motorboat and tie a rope to the canoe. They pull the canoe to shore. Jennifer tries to defend herself with an oar, but when it slips from her hands she runs into the woods to try to escape. The two hoodlums chase after her.

Johnny is waiting for Jennifer in the woods and throws her to the ground. He rips off her bathing suit and he, along with Stanley and Andy, pins her to the ground. Johnny calls out Matthew from the bush and tells him to have sex with her. The boys discussed getting Matthew a girl the night before while fishing and Johnny tells Matthew this is his chance to lose his cherry.

Matthew still refuses, so Johnny has him help the other men pin Jennifer to the ground while he rapes her. Jennifer walks away afterward and the men let her go. After she walks a few hundred yards they surround her and Andy takes his turn.

The men walk away and leave Jennifer half conscience draped over a rock. They return to the motorboat and leave the area, taking Jennifer’s canoe along with them. They dump the canoe in the middle of the river and continue on without it.

Jennifer manages to make it back to the house and crawls to the phone in the living room. Unfortunately, the men are waiting for her in the house and Stanley kicks the phone from her hands. This time Jennifer takes the initiative and begins to fight back by biting Stanley in the leg and ear, but she is no match for the larger and stronger man and she quits after repeated blows to the head, ribs, and stomach.

After some more stomach-churning violence and rape, Johnny tells Matthew to return inside with his switchblade to kill Jennifer so she can’t identify them. Matthew enters the house but doesn’t have the constitution to commit murder. Instead, he wipes the blade in blood from Jennifer’s face and runs back to the others. Johnny sees the blood and believes Matthew committed the crime.

Jennifer wakes up and takes a bath and goes to bed. After the shock wears off, she contemplates what to do. She smokes, takes walks in the forest, retypes her manuscript, and finally decides to kill the motherfuckers who raped her.

Two weeks pass and we see the guys together at a cafe speaking about the murder and worrying about the stench the body must be making in the summer heat. To investigate the problem, Johnny sends Stanley and Andy to reconnoiter the area. From the motorboat, they see Jennifer alive and sitting on the lawn.

Because of his deception, Matthew receives a beating from the boys and is sent on his way having lost the only friends he had in the town. Meanwhile, Jennifer drives to a local church and asks for forgiveness, presumably for the crimes she is about to commit.

Jennifer drives to the gas station and from a distance sees that Johnny has a wife and two kids. She then moves to the grocery store and sees that Matthew is working. She returns home and telephones in a food order knowing that Matthew will be sent with the delivery.

When Matthew arrives and sees her, he becomes frightened and pulls out a knife. Jennifer lures him down to the river under a large tree. She undoes her white dress to show Matthew her naked body and tells him there is no reason to be angry with her because of the loss of his friends (he blames her presence in the area for the loss) as she will be his friend and give him a summer to remember.

Jennifer unbuckles Matthew’s pants and pulls him down on top of her. While he’s having sex with her, she slips a noose around his neck. She pulls him off and strings him up from a tree. He dies hanging there with his pants around his ankles.

After Matthew’s death, Jennifer unties him and throws his body and his delivery bicycle into the river. She returns to the house and to further cover her tracks, telephones the grocery store to complain that she ordered food over an hour previous and the delivery has yet to arrive.

Continue reading the review after the jump…

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