You can definitely look at director Eric England’s horror drama in two plains. You can either watch it as a gory tale of a woman rotting gradually in to something beyond herself, or you can look at it as a metaphorical tale of a woman rotting in to the ugly being she’s probably always been her entire life. When you cut it down, the character Samantha is the protagonist, but never really is an empathetic individual. She’s this lecherous, vapid, and utterly narrow minded being who does nothing but ride on people’s good will and expects big returns. That’s not to say she deserves what is coming to her, but who’s to say her final transformation isn’t what she’s been her entire life?
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost twenty years since the release of Brandon Lee’s final film, but here we were with a brand new release of his landmark film “The Crow.” In a long overdue treatment it deserves more than most titles out on the Blu-Ray format as we speak “The Crow” hasn’t shown wrinkles at all. “The Crow” is a film that garners a soundtrack with some of the most notable rockers of the nineties, along with some rather of the decade colloquialisms, and still manages to feel completely and utterly timeless. That’s because the world Alex Proyas shapes in his 1994 masterpiece is void of shape and time.
Was this remake entirely necessary? Actually no. Especially when you consider Meir Zarchi’s 1978 revenge film continues to be a widely revered, and critically reviled piece of volatile grindhouse cinema that not only set the stages for future revenge films, but was already remade subsequent its theatrical release where we saw no end of women on a rampage revenge films in the late seventies in to the eighties. “I Spit on Your Grave” is still one of the most heavily discussed and angrily debated cult masterpieces to this day inspiring hatred and praise from many film buffs and to this day inspires pure vitriol from iconic film critic Roger Ebert who despises Zarchi’s film so passionately, he banishes anyone who enjoyed it.
Like every bit of film and music today, Ryan Nicholson’s “Gutterballs” is steeped heavily in the eighties with his slasher setting down in the decade while even the score and soundtrack take from it with shameless glee. And while normally that may be enough reason for me to dislike it, I found that his nostalgic placement made sense in the long run and only added to the camp. Nicholson’s slasher wants to be from the time where slashers were common cinematic fare, but sadly it’s just more of a wish than a reality.
If there’s anything that gets my goat more than apocalypse films, and superhero films, it’s revenge flicks. Revenge movies make up some of the best cinema I’ve ever seen, from Samurai epics, to Western tales, and Abel Ferrera’s “Ms. 45” is that revenge movie in the vein of “I Spite on your Grave” where a woman who has suffered the crime of rape, now strikes out against all men, instead of the men who hurt her. Anna is a meek mute girl who designs clothes during the day time. On the way home, she’s anally raped on the street, and then staggers home wounded to find that a man has broken into her home and, angered that she has no valuables, decides to rape her… again.
Anna can’t catch a break, as you can imagine.
Camille Keaton. What more is there to say about this woman? She’s so gorgeous, that I bet her feces smells like roses on freshly cut grass during the Spring. The statuesque and awfully beautiful Keaton is one of the highlights of the awfully gruesome “I Spit on Your Grave.” A film generally reviled, and yet so beloved among the great portion of movie lovers, this B revenge flick is a man hating saga before a slew of unofficial remakes stormed theaters in the 80’s. You have to appreciate a movie so reviled for doing what it set out to do, which is likely why many audiences are still offended by its cinematic offerings of a simplistic story of a woman being victimized and seeking vengeance, even to this day.
We sit there watching this woman be victimized almost endlessly, and after a while we want to seek pure revenge. That seems to be the general intent from director Zarchi. He draws out the pure horror for this character and brings the audience in at eye level. Hill is victimized and harassed, and chased, and raped, and raped, and raped some more. And it becomes utterly grueling to sit through. What did she do to deserve it? Nothing. She’s merely a victim of a series of senseless crimes, and she’s alone in this town. Why should you watch this? Curiosity, perhaps, experimentation, and experiencing what is, whether some like it or not, a cinematic zeitgeist of grind house filmmaking, and pure filmmaking in general. There’s simply nothing more to the plot than what can be described in two sentences.
An author vacationing at a local friend’s house to work on her book is attacked and raped by five men. Surviving, she appears two weeks later, and proceeds to kill them in a fit of bloody revenge. There’s simply nothing more to it. But what Marchi offers in this film is much more than dialogue or complexities can offer. It just visits a heinous and utterly senseless crime that seemed to almost be a sub-conscious word of warning to sexual freedom. This is a film that appeared subsequent to the feminist movement, and the free love era, and Hill seems to embody this attitude while being ravaged by the small town psychos who simply take that to their advantage.
Hill lies wide open, swims, and even lies on a boat in the river, and the group of men that watch and wait, make her pay for it. And many will say “She didn’t deserve this attack,” but Marchi seems to offer the notion that Hill may not have deserved it, but she sure was offering meat to the lions, whether she knew it or not. And she shows a woman’s wrath in ways that are still shocking. I mean, I guarantee you’ll re-consider getting into a hot bath with a woman after seeing what happens to the group leader Johnny. You really will. Women will cringe, men will cringe and instinctively cup their better half. Even decades later, the film still retains its shock factor and sheer gasp inducing imagery, and that’s an accomplishment. Keaton’s performance is rather fantastic and I stick to that notion.
Her rape is something that will be remembered for days on end, after viewing this. She screams, she suffers, and in one scene shambles home holding her arms up in sheer disgust at her violated, torn body. And once she seeks revenge, she hits the deep end and never comes back from it. “I Spit on You Grave” is not a film I’d normally enjoy: Man-hating cinema. But, it offers something that was genuine in its time, and it’s a classic that should be seen. In spite of the repetitiveness it gets caught in the halfway mark, “I Spit on Your Grave” is still an effective and shocking bit of revenge cinema with Camille Keaton burning herself into my brain as this gorgeous woman who becomes a stone cold punisher on the monsters who ravaged her.
In 1980 Roger Ebert described this as “A movie so sick, reprehensible and contemptible that I can hardly believe it’s playing in respectable theaters,” along with an obvious mortified declaration of: “There is no reason to see this movie except to be entertained by the sight of sadism and suffering.” It’s not surprising many folks consider this utter putrid, but “I Spit on Your Grave” should be looked on as a completely different sort of revenge film. It’s one that not only inspires such hatred from its heroine/victim Jennifer Hill, but it manages to inspire pure hatred from its audience. And it’s not surprising that many who defend it seem to suffer a harsh scrutiny, because I’ve found many seem to share Ebert’s thought process.
You can argue the film is sick, but you also have to admit it’s a very powerful rape and revenge thriller that set the standard and still compels, whether it’s through offending or mesmerizing its audience.