Is I Spit on Your Grave the worst film ever made? No, but it comes close. It is perhaps one of the most reprehensible. A central title in the ‘video nasties’ phenomenon of the 1980s, it rode high on a wave of exploitation pictures – made cheaply, with themes of sex and violence, widely condemned and earning good box office (thanks largely to the dirty raincoat community). It had a memorable poster (rumoured to be the young Demi Moore’s backside) and a title that was a stroke of genius.
Our hapless heroine is Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton, Buster’s granddaughter) who leaves Manhattan for a cabin in the woods to write a novel. She catches the attention of four rubes at the local filling station. Stalking turns to assault as Jennifer is besieged in a series of brutal rapes. She is left to crawl muddy and bloody back to her riverside cabin. At the halfway point of the movie, things veer from rape to revenge. Jennifer gets her own back on her persecutors in a succession of sadistic, gory tableaux employing such tools as an axe and an outboard motor as weapons.
The film has no redeeming features. It’s ineptly directed, the post-dubbing seems to have been done in a back kitchen and, apart from Keaton, the acting is substandard. The characters’ motivations are absurd. Scenes of Keaton squirming naked on the ground are gratuitous and distressing. The film has also been so jinked around by the censors that some scenes don’t make sense.
There’s a grimy documentary, in the extras, on the genesis of the film. It’s garnished with clip-art graphics and a rumpled-shirt talking-head called Kenneth Portnoy (yes, really!). There are hilarious suggestions in the doc that the film series has earnest feminist credentials – the woman exacts revenge on her attackers – but don’t expect regular screenings at the Gloria Steinem Foundation any time soon.
Sadly, that’s not the half of it. This is a multi-disc boxset of the spitting franchise, 10-plus hours worth. There are a sequel and a remake and a remake of the sequel. The internet tells us that I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu (2019) is the best of these iterations. It is as repellent as the original, but with better film stock.
Available on Blu-ray from Mon 5 Oct 2020