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March 7, 2013

Movie Review: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

by Peggy Christie

What better way is there to ring in the Valentine holiday than to watch the longest and most brutal gang-rape scene ever filmed, huh? Am I right? Though I’m in my 40s AND I recreated the poster of this flick for our first annual Horror Calendar, I’ve never actually watched it.

Bad Peggy. 

 I Spit On Your Grave is a cult classic gem from 1978 that proves a basic premise that us ladies have known since the discovery of fire: men are idiots.

Our heroine, Jennifer, takes a sabbatical from her busy New York career to rent a summer home up in the country to write a novel. While she finds the locals quite friendly, the quiet woods/river inspiring, and the isolation ideal to get her book written, it turns out that secluding yourself in an unfamiliar, off the beaten track neighborhood was the worst idea. Ever.

Four men take it upon themselves to show Jennifer a good time, because as we all know, career women, especially those from the “big city,” are big whores and are just asking for it all the time.

They basically kidnap her out of a canoe and take her into the woods where she is raped twice. Fleeing back to the rental home, she is raped twice more and beaten bloody. Three of the men head back to their boat while forcing the obviously mentally retarded guy to kill her because if they leave her alive, she’ll blab.

The man can’t do it, thereby affording Jennifer the next two weeks to plot her revenge. And boy howdy, does she ever get it (by convincing two of them, the leader and the retarded man, that she actually does want it big time).

Like I said, men are stupid. 

I knew the reputation of this film. I knew it contained the longest gang rape scene ever filmed. Yet I still wasn’t prepared for the ferocity of it.  Yes, the rape thrusts were overacted like someone desperate to please Stephen Sondheim in their first appearance in a Broadway musical. But what I wasn’t expecting was the 25 minutes of rape, escape, rape, escape, rape, rape (with a beer bottle), beating, then sweet sweet unconsciousness for poor Jennifer. 

After the first rape I thought, well, that didn’t take long. Oh, they were waiting for her in the woods. Okay, second rape over, still didn’t seem that long. Oh, they were waiting for her in the house. It was 25 minutes of constant teasing, making the viewer think Jennifer escaped (finally!) only to be attacked again. 

Yes, the acting was horrible. Yes, the writing was worse. But it didn’t distract me from being completely riveted by the screen. I was exhausted by the end of the rape scene and seriously cheered Jennifer on as she took out her tormentors, one by one. Like its predecessor, Last House on the Left, six years earlier, ISOYG’s visceral brutality sucks you in, giving you characters you can truly hate while cheering on their demises at the hands of the wronged heroine.

3.5 Hatchets 

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