Long before critics coined the term “torture porn” or “torture porn horror,” there was I Spit on Your Grave. “Torture porn,” for those of you not in the know, refers to any horror movie where people are killed, maimed and tortured for no apparent reason. I Spit on Your Grave fits snugly into this vaguely defined subgenre of horror.
The plot to I Spit on Your Grave is rather simple- a woman in a secluded cabin is horribly raped by a group of rednecks. Jennifer, the woman, exacts her revenge. It sounds like it would be a horrible movie, and you would be right in assuming it’s horrible. However, it’s not horrible in the I’m-so-offended way, but horrible as in it’s bad movie.
The direction is horrible. The sound throughout the film a hollow sound. The acting, other than Eron Tabor who played Johnny, leaves something to be desired. The worse crime comes from the prop department. In one particular bad scene, Matthew (one of the rapists) is shown in a close-up. His glasses are missing the lens where other scenes have him wearing a normal pair of glasses. In another scene, the knife meant to kill Jennifer not only looks like a rubber knife but shakes like one too. The direction also fails to bring to life the horror that should be on the screen. I understand it was a low budget movie, but even low budget movies can have some production value.
None the less, if you look past the poorly choreographed scenes, I Spit On Your Grave is a pretty harsh movie at times. It was these scenes that had the movie banned in the South and some countries when it was released in 1978. The violence is what many detractors from the movie focus on. To be sure, it’s difficult to defend the violence because, in reality, the treatment of Jennifer should never happen to anyone. However, what these detractors are missing is the revenge Jennifer takes on her attackers.
Director Meir Zarchi’s original title for the movie was Day of the Woman. Unfortunately, distributors thought I Spit on Your Grave would sell more tickets. It may not have been as catchy, but the original title suggested there was something more to the movie than torture.
It could be argued the movie is a metaphor for women’s rights hence the original title. Johnny, one of the attackers, tries to justify the rape with the old rapist cop out of “she was asking for it.” This spurs Jennifer into action to take back what was taken from her- her pride, dignity, and respect.
The rest of her revenge is played out over the next half hour in which can only be called boring. The last scenes, again, are poorly staged. It makes one wonder how someone could actually be murdered in the manner Jennifer carried out her revenge. It would only be possible if the victims were helping their attacker.
The last scene (spoiler ahead!) shows Jennifer speeding off down the river in the boat she just used to kill her last two attackers. There’s no sense of closure, no feeling the movie should be finished. Perhaps this is what Zarchi wanted, however, the evidence only suggests that he didn’t know how to end a movie. Regardless, I Spit On Your Grave has become a cult classic.
Flash forward 32 years later, studios started cranking out the “torture porn” movies. Most of these movies, like Hostel and The Human Centipede, made money for the studios. So, it was only a matter of time before a studio dusted off I Spit on Your Grave to give it the remake treatment.
Compared to the original, the 2010 version is head-over-shoulders above the original. However, most of this can be contributed to the fact that the remake had a much bigger budget. More money, of course, means the studio could hire better directors, better actors, and better special effects. The story though remains practically the same with the addition of a new police officer character and new technology ( video camera, laptop, cellphones) incorporated into the movie.
It’s the end that makes the biggest impression in the remake. After Jennifer (Sarah Butler) exacts her revenge, in the cruelest and sickest of ways, she sits and smiles for a brief moment. The smile says she’s happy, but as soon as it appears the smile disappears. Revenge it seems is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Either version of I Spit On Your Grave is a must for horror fans. However, if your tastes are more in line with the Friday the 13th franchise (Which are gorier than either of these movies put together) it’s recommended you stay away from either version.