The title is a quote from Robert Ebert’s 1980 review of “A vile bag of garbage named ‘I Spit on Your Grave.'”
What makes this film so bad – or not?
What makes anything a good story?
And can a gnarly, low-budget thriller / slasher flick ever be a good story?
Every story needs a few key elements including:
-A Protagonist & An Antagonist
-Conflict and Resolution
I was trying to decide whether the movie I was watching could be considered ‘good’ in any way, or I should agree with Siskel and Ebert, who both called it one of the worst films ever made. Ebert goes further, saying, “As a critic, I have never condemned the use of violence in films if I felt the filmmakers had an artistic reason for employing it. “I Spit on Your Grave” does not.”
So, there’s something more than the elements listed above that makes a story into a story worth telling. Because ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ has all the elements listed above.
The main character, a woman named Jennifer, is an aspiring writer from New York City. She begins the film as a naïve, somewhat prissy character who doesn’t realize the power or the weakness of her sex. She’s left the city – “Feels good to stretch my legs. I’ve been driving for three straight hours.” for a getaway…somewhere in New Jersey, maybe? She gets a tank of gas and directions to her cabin at a local gas station all for $5.20.
Perhaps New Jersey was a lot farther away from NYC in ’78. – It’s possible.
There’s not much to like about Jennifer, except that she’s pretty and gets completely nude for a swim as soon as she gets to her rental cabin. Considering the target audience of this film, that’s a recipe for success.
After seeing her nude scene (which accounts for a significant portion of her character development), we discover that she’s retreating from distraction in order to focus on writing a book. From what we hear, it’s not very good, but that’s not what’s important.
What is important is that she’s drawn the attention of four local guys with the moral compass of a Tasmanian Devil (which is really not fair to the Devils). These guys are awful. Three of them are pitiless sociopaths, the fourth is a fool who would remind us of Gilligan if the latter were much less intelligent.
Anyway, these four dregs of society wind up abducting and assaulting Jennifer once, twice, then three times as she tries to drag herself back to home and safety. Following the attack, she is transformed. She becomes harder and vengeful. She holes up in her cabin and finishes her book (this seems kind of an odd reaction, but it suggests a greater clarity of the mind). Finally, when her attackers come back to check on her (they had left her for dead) she puts a plan into action and the rest of the movie is something of a justifiable snuff film.
I don’t know why I watched it – or why I finished it, but I did. And in a lot of ways, it reminded me of Gibson’s “Passion of Christ”. Another vehicle for little more than gore. Yet I find both of these films to be somehow powerful (perhaps in very different ways though). And even more surprising, if I could un-watch one of these, it would definitely be “The Passion of Christ” – it was so horribly convincing that I wince just thinking about it. Contrary to this, nothing in ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ is realistic at all -not the sex, not the violence
The acting is spotty – but then again, so is the script. But with a $650,000 estimated budget, it ranks among a larger pantheon of impactful, low dollar horrors like Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.