When and why we make a film is an important question that every director confronts. When creating anything and putting it out there in the world, we have to be cognizant of the fact that our art is an embodiment or image of ourselves. The director of I Spit on Your Grave, Meir Zarchi, created this film due to a personal experience he had with sexual violence. Does representing the truth behind rape make great art? Or does it just further perpetuate and spread the violence and horror that exists when dealing with this subject? Sometimes it is both of these things, but more than likely when dealing with a topic of this magnitude it is never going to be entertaining or enjoyable for the viewer.
I Spit on Your Grave has a simple plot that revolves around a writer, Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton), getting out of the city and working on her novel in an isolated cottage. After attracting the attention of local men, her relaxing vacation turns to hell thanks to the ignorant philosophies and opinions of the men around her. After being traumatized, Hill seeks revenge on the men that hurt her.
This film more than likely touches on each of us in a personal way thanks to the revolution of womens' rights and the fight against sexual violence. The ignorant idea that a woman deserves what she gets because of what she wears and how she acts are brought up throughout the film. Then questions about how to handle a personal trauma are brought up during the end of the film. These questions make the viewer uncomfortable enough, but once you toss in some of the most intense and gruesome rape and murder scenes there are the film turns downright appalling.
Film and art itself can be political and ask probing questions, but at what expense? There is a fine line between sending a message and outright catharsis. It seems like this film was a way for Zarchi to send a loud message about what exactly happens during rape, but is it accurate? As a horror fan, I have seen some truly gruesome films that had unnecessary images for the sake of scaring people. This film is different because I don’t believe it was attempting to scare people, but rather teach them a lesson about how a woman or anyone feels after being sexually assaulted. A heavy topic indeed, but I believe it is worth exploring through film. So if you have this opportunity to create a movie that is meant to take on a heavy subject, but a necessary one, why would you make it unwatchable?
Some people are going to watch this film and root for the heroine, Jennifer Hill, when she is seeking revenge against her assailants. I imagine that extreme anger is a side effect of being traumatized in this way, but I can’t help but think about Hill after this film is over. How does she feel once she has gotten her revenge? Does she feel happy and whole again? Or simply more dissociated and torn apart? I Spit on Your Grave explores the anger of being hurt, but it never explores the most important and terrifying part, healing.
Putting all the loaded questions aside, is I Spit on Your Grave a good horror film? I believe that it sends the wrong message, but it does allow people to explore the topic and reflect on their own personal lives. It is terrifying in the fact that we live in a world where this happens. It is not the kind of film that you watch twice and it has a strong lasting effect. Since everyone is going to view this film in different ways, it is incredibly hard to give this movie a score. I personally believe it puts sexual violence on the map, but explores the completely wrong aspects of it. While seeking revenge against the people who hurt you is terrifying, is it more terrifying than living with the consequences of your revenge? This is a question that needs exploration and has resulted in me viewing the film in a much more negative manner. With that in mind, I respect what Zarchi was going for and many viewers may not interpret it the same way I have. When watching any film, we have to remember it is more than entertainment. A movie is a message to thousands and thousands of people. With a topic like this, I just wish the message was more thought out.
If you liked I Spit on Your Grave, you might also like The Last House on the Left and The Last House on the Left (2009).