The Film (3.5/5)
Maybe I'm becoming a bit of a wimp as I get older.
I will admit that I have never been what I would call a fan of I Spit On Your Grave, but really in my opinion it's not a film that you can really enjoy, like a lot of more shocking horror films (Cannibal Holocaust, Last House on Dead End Street) you can like it, but enjoying it is something else entirely. I will not take the point that many critics seem to take when discussing I Spit..., that is a useless and needlessly horrific film. I believe that I Spit on Your Grave is a well-made and effective horror film, the question for myself and the viewer is Do you really want to watch it?
I Spit on your Grave maybe one of the most notorious of 70's horror films. It is certainly at least as brutal as Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, if not more so. Whereas Last House attempted to have some comedic moments to break up the horror of the situation, once it gets going I Spit on Your Grave is one long rape/revenge endurance test.
The film stars Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills, a New York City urbanite, who has decided to take a summer get away in the country to write her debut novel. At first she has her peace, but that is only a short lived relaxation, because before she can even settle in, she is raped repeatedly by 4 locals including a mentally retarded virgin, who is egged on by his 3 redneck friends. This scene may be one of the hardest to watch sequences, not just of 70's horror cinema, but in narrative cinema in general. The sequence is shot in a very brutal and uncompromising cinema verite documentary style, and it goes on for pretty much the entirety of the films 2nd act (roughly 40 minutes). By the end of this sequence there is not much life or a will to live left in Jennifer. She is covered in her own blood, and mud, and is totally exasperated.
This brings us to the films third act, after Jennifer recovers she decides not to leave the country, but to seek her revenge on the 4 rapist. And she does so in a very brutal fashion, each one dying in a very horrifying manner. And at the end when all of them lay bloody and dead, and Jennifer has redeemed herself, the question remains was it worth watching this film. Was it worth sitting through a thoroughly disgusting 40+ minute rape sequence to make this point? Because most of us who watched this movie over the years watched it for the shock value, and the gore, but there are a lot of films that have the shocks, and the gore, but don't leave you as repulsed as I Spit on Your Grave does. In all honestly I have seen the film a few times before, as a young teenager (maybe 14) on VHS, and later on DVD. However, since the DVD when I choose to watch it I watch it with the Joe Bob Brigg's commentary track, which helps lighten the mood of the proceedings, even with that commentary it is still a difficult watch.
I gave I Spit On your Grave a 3.5/5 based on this viewing, and you might find that odd based on what I've written up to this point, but the fact is I think it at the very least gets that score, and the reason I Spit on your Grave is a very effective film. The director by Meir Zarchi completely makes you feel like you are part of the film. He keeps the film compelling, so that even during the most brutal of sequences you cannot simply avert your eyes to what is going on on-screen. It feels like the Ludovico sequence in A Clockwork Orange minus the contraptions to hold open your eyes. On top of that the performance by Camille Keaton as Jennifer is simply excellent. She has to play what is essentially 3 roles during the course of the film (City girl, victim, and revenge driven psychopath), and does so in such an effective way that you never question her character motivations, she truly makes the character feel like a real person. The 4 redneck characters are pretty one-dimensional, but in a way that sort of works for the film.
I Spit On Your Grave is not what I would ever call a sharp, great looking film, that's why I was taken completely by surprise on how good this Blu-ray actually looked. Anchor Bay has presented I Spit on Your Grave in a 1080p 1:78:1 HD transfer preserving the films original theatrical aspect ratio. As stated earlier in my review I have seen this film in pretty much every home format that it's been available on, and nothing could have prepared me for this. I Spit On Your Grave has always looked like a grungey, grimy, scratchy exploitation film, Anchor Bay has gone back and done a total restoration on the film. The colors are bright and practically POP from the screen, the flesh tones are accurate, and the level of detail present in the transfer is absolutely stunning. The grain structure is largely intact, which makes this Blu-ray look like the film as it would have been projected in theaters in the 70's. It may actually look better than it did then to be perfectly honest.
Anchor Bay has presented I Spit On your Grave with a nice 5.1 True HD track in English. The track does quite an excellent job, the dialogue is clear for the most part, although there were a few sequences where I had to fiddle with the remote to understand what is being said. The effects on the other hand are very nearly perfectly mixed, and help to add to the films natural atmosphere. There are no real other aural imperfections on the track, as in no pops, hissing, or other sorts of distortion present.
Anchor Bay has put together a nice assortment of extras for their Blu-ray release of I Spit On your Grave, some of them like the Joe Bob commentary have been ported over from prior release, and some are exclusive to this one. The film kicks off with a commentary track by the films director Meir Zarchi, this commentary track is quite informative, and gives a lot of good background detail on the film, it's production, and it's reception. The second commentary is from legendary film critic Joe Bob Briggs, this commentary is not only insightful, and informative, but also quite funny. Joe Bob brings his established sense of humor to a film that really has none, and in a way helps make the film entirely more watch able than it ever was before. This is followed up by 30 minute on camera interview with Meir Zarchi, which covers some of the same ground, as the commentary but also goes into additional details, and clarifies his opinion of the recent remake. The disc is rounded off by an alternate main title sequence, a series of trailers, TV, and radio spots for the films various releases, and finally a poster/stills gallery.
I Spit on your Grave is not a film for everyone, however, it is a powerful and effective exploitation thriller. The A/V work done for this restoration is absolutely mind-blowing, the transfer is uniformly excellent and the audio is quite effective. The extras complement the film nicely, and help to establish the films background and place in film history. This film comes recommended at your own discretion.