Saturday, July 31, 2010

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) - the rapiest movie that ever raped its way into the rape-o-sphere

Our heroine Camille Keaton rents a cabin so she can relax lakeside and write a feminist novel. Unfortunately, the locals (i.e. men) are not as mature and sophisticated as she is.

I trek daily into town on my rusty Schwinn, a baseball card stuck in the spokes, sort of an overloaded metronome to distract from the appalling noises dictated through progress (like, that beeping sound garbage trucks use when backing up). Of course, as a sensible man, I don’t use a baseball card that could possibly become valuable in the future, and usually go with someone like Mario Mendoza or Bill Buckner.

Anyway, as the resident out-of-town film buff, I can’t avoid fielding questions from the locals as I trudge from errand to errand. This particular day, I headed to the butcher’s shop to pick up some hot dogs, a most debauched savory, I readily admit. Of course, the butcher blurts out a question.

“Hey duke, I want to get more into Italian cannibal films. I want the sickest, most horrifying of the lot. Whatta ya got?”

My eyes curiously fixated on a jar of pigs feet, I quickly retort, sans eye contact: “Cannibal Holocaust. No doubt. Can’t go wrong.”

“Well, but they kill animals in that, don’t they? That’s going a bit too far. So…besides that I mean?”

(Sighing defeatedly) “If you really want to stare into the depths of horror via the Italians and their cannibals, Holocaust it is. Look, I gotta run. I have much to accomplish and precious few years left.”

I stop by the barber shop to get a cut and a shave (and maybe my tips frosted a tad, if I’m feeling adventurous), and I brace myself for whatever turgid questions human beings are typically supposed to answer. Invariably, the barber will ask for a recommend.

“Say duke, I really dig the Rambo films and want to explore some of those cheap ripoffs. Whatta ya got for me bud?”

With curious confidence, I quickly rattle off: “If you want Rambo, and you want cheap, and you want ripoff, you want Deadly Prey. No doubt about it. None.”

“Yeah, but that’s a little too cheap, isn’t it? I mean, what about something like a real movie?”

Understanding that I am imprisoned in an uncomfortable chair, with a greasy peon hovering above me with a pair of deadly scissors, I try to avoid any potential conflict, realizing that my own pride is not worth getting a sharp object shoved into my lower brain stem.

“Yes, I’m quite sure you are right in all of which you speak, but I am drawing a blank on this topic. Perhaps it’s the onset of some sort of rare disease. I best not overwork my memory for fear of further damage.”

“Yes, I understand. I hope you feel better. So…are we going with the frosted tips today Duke?”

(ruminating with great intensity) “Let’s do this shit.”

Looking fresh and feeling confident, I hit the last bit of business on my checklist, strutting over to Fiebershlack’s Discount Coasters to pick up a couple Picasso coasters for the new maple end table, staying one step ahead of the incorrigible company I keep and their wayward coffee mugs. Quickly locating the items, I race to the counter, only to be greeted by the Assistant Manager:

“Hey Duke! Buying coasters today?”

I initially stew in confusion at this typically illogical human, before retorting with: “Yes…you are quite correct. That is most definitely the case.”

Undeterred by sarcasm, instead his face fills with accomplishment before asking: “So, Duke, let me ask you a question. This may sound a little weird, but...I, uh...wanted to ask you about rape movies.”

After an interior sigh, I quickly blurt: “No problem. Shoot.”

“Well, I’ve been watching some of this stuff, your Last House on the Left types and what have you. Heck, I just saw Rape Squad this week. Great stuff. Anyway, while I gotcha here, I wanted to ask you: what’s the rapiest movie ever made? I mean, I wanna watch something, like, super duper rapey.”

“Well, if you want rape, you want I Spit on Your Grave. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.”

“Yeah, well…but, isn’t that supposed to be depressing? I mean, Rape Squad was a heckuva lot of fun.”

Quickly coming up with an excuse to avoid a conflict between polished intellect and rambling incoherency, I spout henceforth, hoping to daze him with an onslaught of words.

“Now, excuse me, I have to go. I have an important interview with an oil magnate. He’s seeking to hire someone as a secretary for a substantial pay rate, and I feel that with my extensive education and visionary ideas, he would be remiss not to bring me on board to his corporate system. If it is survival of the fittest within the marketplace of ideas, it is I who possesses the intellect to parse things for the grocers of capitalism, so to speak. Also, I too am quite lacking in capital…hence the bicycle. So...good day to you sir!

I pedal away, wiping the sweat of human interaction from my brow, and quickly head home, while poor Bill Buckner takes yet another beating.


Few people are ready for OBLIVION. They say they want to walk along the edges of the earth, but really, they just want to laugh while watching a video showing some helpless bastard falling over a cliff. So, as I posited to the fellow from the coaster store, there is only one film you really need when discussing rape as a cinematic model, and that is I…Spit on Your Grave (as the voice over guy for the trailer puts it).

If cinema is like a road, a world moving from point A to B, and the road is a metaphor, I Spit on Your Grave presents rape as a metaphor for life (doing the math). Some of us aren’t readily equipped with vaginas (although I do have access to one occasionally…very occasionally), and also don’t find ourselves occasionally surrounded by drunk rednecks who view women solely as meat receptors. Instead of ogling and murmured sexual threats, some of us journey amidst silence, resigned to taking it in the nether regions by the controlling interests of a world steeped in arbitrary rules cemented before we came to be. Therefore, we can still empathise with this situation, a human struggle to survive a rape onslaught along a spare cinematic road to hell.

The lovely Camille Keaton, cinematically violated like no other before or since (we’re talking like 45 minutes of screen time), her face rubbed into the dirt and grime of human ugliness. She is our humanity, beaten and raped into an unrecognizable pile of mush. Afterwards, she quickly swings by a church asking for forgiveness, a perfunctory ritual that helps to quelch any ingrained societal morality. So begins her cold rampage for revenge.

She uses her body on this existential quest, not as a fulfillment of some sort of fantasy, but rather a cold and detached means to an end. After all, these male pigs only understand things in (very) base terms, viewing females as masturbation tools. This tactic proves mercilessly effective, as these especially dimwitted males seem to think that she enjoyed being raped for 45 minutes and left for dead, a bloody shambles rising from the grave for more. She likes it rough, I suppose.

In the end, humanity conquers all, as Camille is the only real human being in the movie, and the only one to survive ( the math). In this sense, I Spit On Your Grave is an optimistic work about the human spirit shining through darkness. Camille could have easily withered up and died, but instead, marched forward through adversity. One of these obstacles is her own moral compass, but these fellas thoroughly cemented themselves, through their actions, as subhuman monsters that needed to die. Camille, a victim turned hero, had the fortitude of will and spirit to do what had to be done.

P.S. For a proper defense against the alleged immorality of the film, check out Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary on the Millennium Edition DVD released by Elite. I was going to touch on this aspect, but the review was already hitting 1300 words, and JBB does a better job than I could anyway.


  1. Hey man,

    Just dropped in from your link of my recent post about the remake. Who thought it would be rape that brought us together?

    I always like to read exploitation film analysis. I sometimes wonder if these deeper meanings were at all intentional on the part of the filmmakers. In most cases, I would say yes, but this particular instance, I'm not so sure.

  2. @Jay

    Hey! The director claimed that the movie was inspired by a real incident where he saw a woman escape a park after being raped, and went up to a police officer, who made fun of her and refused to do anything about it. So, in this instance, I would say it was intentional, but the important thing, I think, is whether or not the viewer finds it interesting on that level (or buys into it).