Famously called “a movie so sick, reprehensible and contemptible that I can hardly believe it’s playing in respectable theatres” by Roger Ebert. I Spit on Your Grave has since gone on to spawn 4 further films. Proving that although it was hard to believe, there was indeed and continued to be a large audience for this type of grim horror.
Celebrating this fact is the release of a collector’s edition boxset, housing all of the films plus a brand new documentary about the series.
I Spit on Your Grave 1978
Let’s start all the way back to 1978 with the original which is still a difficult watch today despite the film being cut to pieces to get it through the BBFC. Banned in multiple European countries, it seemed as if the film would never be a success. Yet it did.
Telling the tale of Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton), a writer from the city, she is on the lookout for a little quiet place to finish her first novel. What comes instead is a series of events that will change her for the rest of her life as her quiet retreat becomes a hell.
I Spit on Your Grave actually deceives the audience for the first portion of the film. Everything appears calm and we get to know Jennifer and her surroundings. It is not until the uncomfortable first meeting with her attackers and future victims that director Meir Zarchi twists the knife on the audience.
The rape scenes are of course horrific to watch, even in this version of the film. You want and probably will turn away during it and I think that was Zarchi’s intent. He didn’t want you to find anything enjoyable about this act (acts). The suddenness and escalation will catch many by surprise and in the truth that brings a sense of reality to the film. In some films, there is a long wait and a sense of dread of what is going to happen.
Her response is apt and equally as disturbing as she becomes death to her attackers. Despite what happens throughout the film, this is a film owned by Camille Keaton, who deserves all the plaudits for her brave performance. There is a lot to be said that her portrayal of Jennifer is the ultimate in the “Final Girl” category. Her actions are stark and sinister, but very much deserving. Without her performance I am not sure how long I Spit on Your Grave would be remembered for. We almost certainly would not have gotten this collectors box.
Make no mistake, however, the dialogue and cinematography are as amateur as it gets. The sheer luck of the casting and the time overall premise are what drive the film. We want to see Jennifer’s attackers get their comeuppance. What strikes me most upon this rewatch was how nonchalant she is about each death. She does what she has to and leaves, she doesn’t care to wait for their death as she is smart enough to know that there is no escape from what positions she leaves them in. Does this make the film a tad cold? Perhaps, or are we as the audience just bloodthirsty and ready to see revenge? Either way, the film is as bold as it is grim.
In the end, the first film in the Collectors box is a must watch and the fact there wasn’t another version of the film for 32 years should tell you everything about the impact it had on audiences. A gruesome difficult classic for the genre
I Spit on Your Grave 2010
It took 32 years, but in the era of 70s horror remakes, it was only a matter of time before I Spit on Your Grave came up next by a studio. Following the exact same premise (it is a remake after all). There are a few modern alterations to the tale (with the group videotaping Jennifer before they go in to attack her). Also, and most likely thankfully for audiences, this is a onetime attack (although excruciatingly prolonged).
With an actual budget on hand, it was always going to be a film that was better from a technical standpoint. The writing is a lot stronger here as well as the editing and direction. Director Steven R. Monroe brings us some much-needed suspense, although at times it is just that tad too polished, this is thanks to the budget where everything had to look real, as, for the most part, almost everything in 1978 was real.
Where the remake struggles however in its comparisons with the original are with Jennifer herself. Sarah Butler is excellent in the film, but she is made to be this inventive murderer (although justified) who creates torture porn devices. It removes us a tad from the retribution that should be becoming. With the original, Jennifer took no prisoners and had to use what she had on her. Here, it feels as if this Jennifer would have to be close to the edge of carrying out these acts on her attackers before they happen. It is too methodical and a tell-tale of the times in the horror genre, where torture porn was king.
The focus for the first act or so is obviously Jennifer as we are seeing here via the gaze of her predators. What Monroe expertly does her is switched that. We do not focus nearly as much on Jennifer as she is getting her revenge. We know she will, but it switches to us watch the new prey, we are Jennifer watching these monstrous men meet there much deserved end. It is an interesting take and one that I feel works well for the film.
Overall, this is everything you would expect from Anchor Bay at the time, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but still remains true enough to the original. As dark and uncomfortable as the film 32 years prior.
I Spit on Your Grave 2 2013
Our first deviation from the cabin in the woods. This time out we have a new character in Steven R. Monroe’s return to the franchise.
Katie is a struggling model working as a waitress in New York to make ends meet. Trying to improve on her portfolio she contacts a studio that offers free shots (dodgy no?) This studio is run by three Eastern European gentlemen who try to get Katie to pose naked. Upon refusal, she is marked as a target and is attacked and shipped to Bulgaria where the abuse ceases to stop. Left for dead Katie somehow lives on and plots her revenge…
Where Monroe tried to navigate around the brutal rape scene in his 2010 remake, here he seems to have done a complete 180 and thought that he would try to show (while still passing the censors) as much abuse as possible. Katie is degraded herein as uncomfortable away as imaginable and it is still a mystery as to why Monroe took this route. This could just be me talking after going through 3 of these in a row, but these attacks seem harder to watch than the first.
That said, I Spit on Your Grave 2 is probably the better-made film in comparison to Monroe’s film 3 years prior. Jemma Dallendar is strong here, though not on the same level as Sarah Butler or Camille Keaton before her. This could be due to the actual plot of the film. There are some sequences that you doubt the reality of and it takes you away from it slightly.
Returning to the attack scenes, there just does not seem to be a reason to warrant what we see on screen. It feels as if either Monroe wanted to outdo the original despite his (in comparison) gentler version. Or he had criticism to not going hard enough in those scenes so amped it up to such an uncomfortable level that you as the audience do not want to keep watching. This degradation takes up far too much of the film and again. It is confusing as to why this is presented to us in such a way, other than to play to the Hostel and Saw crowd that were increasing their abuse of victims tenfold.
Sadly this has to be considered a misfire from Monroe who seems to have completely misinterpreted the point of Zarchi’s original.
I Spit on Your Grave: Vengeance is Mine 2015
Sarah Butler returns to the series as Jennifer Hill, 5 years after her attack in the woods. She is trying to recover, but still struggles with the events and despite therapy is as on edge as she was the day after. Hope comes in the form of a fellow survivor, but when her new friend is found dead after being raped and beaten, Jennifer decides to take vengeance on behalf of her fallen friend.
Thankfully we are now past the point of watching our lead go through some brutal sequences to start our film. Though the idea that Jennifer is so broken that she imagines it everywhere is so mishandled here. This premise could have had serious legs in the right hands.
The idea that our lead is so broken mentally that she endures so much psychological trauma makes sense and to then have that come out into her real life is interesting. Instead, it feels as if this is used just to add to the shock and violence factor. That said, there is a tonne here to enjoy as a genre fan with gore aplenty. It just doesn’t feel deserved and that is a real shame as we know what Butler can do as a performer and as this character.
An interesting tidbit is how Jennifer is more like her 1978 character, using herself as bait for the attackers instead of devising these grand plans of torture. I wonder what made this switch occur in her character as that did not seem like something 2010 Jennifer would do, but alas.
It also looks as if Butler was sold on a different idea as she shows nowhere near as much power in her performance as she did previously in 2010. It is as if the energy had been taken from her. It could have been an acting choice of course, but with a film that could have had so much potential to be noteworthy, it falls flatter than it needed to.
I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu 2019
The return of Camille Keaton was long asked for by fans of the series as the idea of finding out what happened after these events, especially during that time period of the late 70s would be quite interesting, we got something completely different and I am not really sure what we have here.
This isn’t a great movie, it is barely okay. It exists and it is fine. Every decision, however, makes you question if they really thought it through or was it all on a whim. For starters, the running time is a gigantic 148 minutes. In no reality should this film be almost two and a half hours long? How Meir Zarchi thought it was a good idea is truly beyond me. Anyway, let’s look at the synopsis…
Jennifer Hills has written her account of the events that changed her life and is not a bestselling author with a famous model daughter. While on a book tour they meet some supposed fans who are in fact the family of one her attackers 40 years prior. Together mother and daughter must escape the clutches of this group and get back to safety.
Not a bad plot when you think of it, it allows the series to move forward possibly with Christy if it was a success, and importantly it feels real, if the killer of your husband was near enough and you were a tad loopy, it makes sense that you would go and get her.
The is no oomph to the film and it never feels as if it gets out of second gear and sadly that also includes the performances of the cast. Keaton is so disappointing here and is very much looking as if she Is her for the paycheque. Despite all of the negatives that the film has, and there are many, there is a lot to enjoy for fans of the series. While it is not on par with the original or indeed the remake, the subjects the film brushes upon are interesting. Focusing on PTSD and trauma, for both sides is interesting. It just didn’t need to be 148 minutes long.
Growing Up With I Spit on Your Grave 2019
The real prize for fans here is the documentary on the original film. We have a plethora of analysis, footage, interviews for us to go through. For those who had questions about the original production, pretty much everything gets answered here in this feature-length doc.
It should be noted that we did not get to inspect the special features, but they are many and plentiful for each film. Although not all of the films hit the right spot, this is still a must-buy for fans and it shouldn’t really be a second thought!