Day of the Woman
Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 11 July 2004
Source Elite Entertainment Millennium Edition DVD
I Spit on Your Grave was released in Chicago in July of 1980, and was met with little haste by two very reactionary views by Roger Ebert (“a vile film for vicarious sex criminals”) and Gene Siskel. Their efforts of disapproval resulted in the film being pulled from the United Artist theater screening it, a mere week into its release. This is the type of action that would only secure a film’s notoriety.
The Elite Millenium Edition of I Spit on Your Grave includes excerpts from both Ebert’s and Siskel’s reactions. Both views are inspired by the presence of teenagers in the screening, and others presumably too young to gain entry. Both critics are correct in measuring the relevance of the film’s violent, adult content, but it is a fault of both to deem this — or any — film watchable. On Ebert’s part it is a hypocritical action, as it is contrary to his support of improved leniency in the ratings system. If a film critic dons a responsibility in his title, it certainly does not involve prohibiting any film from being seen; the terms “vile,” “perverted,” and “offensive,” while justified in both Chicago critics’ reviews, are subjective.
As the DVD highlights I Spit on Your Grave is largely indebted to this notorious founding, perhaps even more so to the laurels given it by feminists. Despite its elements of exploitation I Spit on Your Grave involves a woman’s redemption: it is a violent feminist rejection of the male gaze. This is, admittedly, a level of interpretation stifled behind the film’s abundant uses of violence and gore.
Meir Zarchi directed the film with the intent to shock (justifying, perhaps, Ebert’s and Siskel’s reactions). The first half of the film includes four rape scenes, and the view lingers on the aftermath of each one. It is a loss of morality, attraction, and ultimately of choice. The victimized female protagonist has become an object robbed of any individual personality. These concerns are apparent as Jennifer crawls naked and bruised through a forest without direction. A bright sun prohibits any shade from hiding her. It is powerful image of vulnerability. I Spit on Your Grave is shocking, and rightly so.
Joe Bob Briggs provides commentary for the film. His thoughts are extensively informed, and are arguably necessary in meeting the extent of I Spit on Your Grave’s appreciation. Briggs opposes himself to the views of Siskel and Ebert, frequently citing the iconic feminist language of the film. Briggs’ opinions and information are consistent, persuasive, and continually hilarious.
There is a successful motive at work in I Spit on Your Grave, though its methods of employing it are questionable. By more common standards it is morally reprehensible.