Call it what you want, but Meir Zachi's I Spit on your Grave is one of the most influential films in horror history, and has gone a long way toward reshaping the way horror films are seen and marketed (for good or bad!). Zachi's tale of rape and retribution has fueled many a late night session at censorship boards around the globe, and while I've personally seen films a hundred times more offensive, this cult classic is the poster child for all things "Nasty".
I Spit on your Grave was originally released as Day of the Woman and, while not the first film of its kind, has become synonymous with the genre, spawning dozens of imitations and homage. The plot of the film is simple; a young New York City woman (Keaton) retreats to the country to work on a novel. When she arouses the curiosity of a band of backwoods deviants, she is brutally raped and left for dead. As she recovers from the attacks she hunts down and kills each of her attackers. It's not rocket science. It's rape and revenge.
While I Spit... is a pretty offensive film, I have to commend Meir Zarchi for staying so relentlessly true to his subject matter. While many consider the film a misogynistic sleaze epic, this couldn't be further from the truth. Zarchi's depiction of rape is about as arousing as watching a puppy stuffed into a meat grinder, and nothing about these scenes are glossed over or sensationalized in any way. Zarchi's camera lingers and observes with the cool detachment of a passive voyeur, making all of us feel like accomplices, or at the very least, silent witnesses. Camille Keaton (What Have You Done To Solange?) delivers a very powerful and highly underrated performance in a very misunderstood shock classic that only recently has gotten the praise it deserves. While not a perfect film, I Spit on your Grave is a brutally effective one.
The DVD from Elite is the third in their excellent Millennium Edition series, which feature important genre films presented in newly remastered, anamorphic THX approved prints with loads of supplemental goodies. The print presented here is the uncut 98 minute version of the film looking quite sharp and nearly artifact free. The sound has been cleaned up nicely and is crisp and clear. While not as astonishing as the Millennium Edition transfer of Night of the Living Dead, this is the best I Spit on your Grave has ever looked.
Supplemental materials are plentiful, with text reviews (including Siskel and Ebert's scathing diatribes), theatrical trailers, television adverts, print adverts, radio spots, posters, video covers, and two commentaries; one by director Zarchi and one by B-Movie fanatic/journalist Joe Bob Briggs. The director's commentary is very spirited and occasionally quite funny, but the Briggs commentary is worth the price of the DVD alone. Joe Bob is not only hilarious, he is also incredibly informative and side-splittingly critical of the film's weakest elements. Watching the film with Joe Bob's track is a bit like an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but with less bad jokes and more fascinating genre insight. This is, without a doubt, the best feature on any DVD this year and I implore the powers that be to make this a regular gig for the man. Elite did a bang-up job with this one, and I can only imagine where the Millenium Editions go from here!
I Spit on your Grave is a very hard film to review, because you can't just say "Wow! That's AWESOME!" and leave it at that. Rape is not AWESOME. Rape is sick and depraved. However, Zarchi's film is one of the first to truly reflect that in cinema, and, while it's essentially an exploitation film, it's an exploitation film that's left an indelible mark on cinema as we know it.