Part 3 of 13, excerpted from an essay entitled “Disturbo 13: The Most Disturbing Horror Films Ever Made” by Stanley Wiater.
Originally released—and forgotten—as Day of the Woman, this very low-budget revenge film received instant cult notoriety when critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert lambasted it on their nationally syndicated television show. Why? Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Meir Zarchi, who shot it somewhere in rural New York, I Spit on Your Grave contains perhaps the most prolonged and graphic scenes of rape ever filmed. The plot is incredibly simple and direct: a young woman (Camille Keaton) rents a cabin out in the country. Alone, she is set upon and then brutally and repeatedly raped by four men. That’s the entire first half of the movie: scenes of this woman being raped and beaten and sodomized by four different men—one of them portrayed as a pathetic mental defective.
The second half of the movie is devoted to showing how this resourceful young woman takes the law into her own hands and fatally dispatches each of her attackers in the most lurid and cruel manner possible. When the last one is dead, the movie just ends.
Some critics have defended this unrelentingly cruel film as a feminist revenge fantasy in the sense that the victim gives her attackers just what they deserved, and then some. However, the fact that the protagonist is a very attractive woman who doesn’t hesitate to use her physical attributes to “seduce” the men into compromising positions before attacking them certainly muddies the moral waters. It is one ideal to make a brutal film condemning rape, it is another to portray the four rapists as exhibiting “acceptable” behavior toward women so that a female can later use her sexuality to “naturally” destroy the male.
Whatever I Spit on Your Grave is trying to say about rape, about the only conclusion that can be reached from viewing it is that both sexes are thoroughly violated and debased. It’s the kind of slimy cinematic experience that makes you want to take a long shower after its final, blood-drenched climax.