Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Spit On Your Grave

Unredeemable trash, or misunderstood pro-feminist classic?

I’m going to give you the entire plot of the movie. Don’t worry, it won’t take long, because the only way a movie could have less plot is if you accidentally put a blank DVD in the player.

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) wants to write a novel, so she rents a secluded cabin. There, she catches the attention of three cretin and their mentally disabled (for real) friend. They grab her and rape and sodomize her repeatedly, forcing her to perform every possible act. This scene goes on long past what you think you can stand. It is long enough to take a break to use the bathroom, then fix yourself a sandwich and eat it. When they’ve finally done everything they can to the woman, they leave their retarded sidekick to stab her to death. He can’t bring himself to do it, and leaves her alive, although he tells the others she’s dead (considering what happens later, I wonder at the message of this. Use a competent member of your group to kill your victim?).

Having survived, Jennifer slowly heals. You might think she would go to the police, but she has other ideas. When she’s recovered, she returns to the location of her violation and puts the move on her attackers. Most people in their position would flee to Brazil when they saw her alive, but these nitwits actually believe the woman they brutalized would be attracted to them. Once she has them off guard, she kills them in various ways, with the one who spared her life going first and possibly most painfully. I guessed he regretted his one moment of kindness at the end.

When it was released in 1978, almost all critics were in agreement: The movie was trash. Since then, some contrarians have come up with the idea the movie has a strong feminist message, that the victimized woman is empowered when she takes matters into her own hands to get revenge. The original title of the movie, Day of the Woman (it was re-titled for a 1980 re-release, perhaps to fool people a second time), offers some support that the filmmakers had that in mind.

I just can’t buy it. The fact that the woman wins in the end can’t make up for the leering, overwrought multiple rape scene. I honestly believe the people who made the movie thought if they made a rape-filled movie, it would attract a certain type of viewer. But how to present this without looking like a pervert? Have the woman win in the end. If you look for a message and a deeper meaning in any film, you can find it, of course, but here I don’t think there was any real purpose other than to titillate some raincoaters.

Trivia note: The shapely rear on the poster (above) is not that of Ms. Keaton. There is a persistent legend the model was none other than Demi Moore, but I would think this about as likely as me being the King of France.

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