If you’re making a list of difficult, controversial or simply disturbing films, then I Spit On Your Grave should no doubt be near the top. In England, the idea that we would ever be able to watch it legally at home, let alone on a deluxe two disc Blu would have seemed ridiculous just a few years ago, but 2020 has been nothing if not strange and it might still be ugly, but this film has never looked so clear and bright.
Camille Keaton shines as Jennifer Hills, a writer taking a solo break to go and work on her debut novel, only to be scouted and then hideously attacked by a quartet of men. The film might have been released in 1978 but it still features some of the most tough to watch scenes. One of the reasons for this, aside from the obvious, is that director Meir Zarchi does not give you the take-a-breath tools used by other film makers. Firstly, you’ll notice no music, it gives a sense of reality, as if you are there but unable to help. The only times he adds music is a Deliverance style harmonica motif and Hills blasting out opera after getting her ultimate revenge.
With something as controversial as this, the film finally gets the documentary it deserves, that tells the history and problems with its release. This ranges from the original print titled Day Of The Woman getting no attention until the new title gave it the shot in the arm it needed. Growing Up With I Spit On Your Grave, from the directors son has much to offer, from the original reviews that seemed to be watching a completely different movie (Hello, Siskel and Ebert) to the fact that the poster claims Hills kills five men, when in fact there were four. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a great campaign. Being a US production, there is not much focus on the Video Nasties controversy that the film was caught up in, but instead we get exclusive modern interviews with Camille Keaton and director Zarchi which give us a great insight into the mood on the set and the historical importance of the film itself. There are also excellent ‘fan’ inserts, including expert BJ Colangelo, who explains how rather than being exploitative, the film helped her after her own horrific attack. This feminist swerve is another look at the film, which critics may have missed with all their ‘it’s obscene!’ And storming the gates with pitchforks trying to suppress art. The documentary ends with Hills and Zarchi reuniting (they were married for a while there) both in real life and on camera for I Spit On Your Grave : Deja Vu, which is the official sequel to the original and also out this week.
Zarchi also gives us a commentary with his memories on the film, once again full of little tidbits that are super interesting. Want something lighter? (Well, anything aside from A Serbian Film is lighter, right?) There is an excellent commentary by one of my all time favourite cult film historians and critics, Joe Bob Briggs. He breaks down all the characters and shouts many questions at the screen and also you can feel his displeasure as the ‘bathroom’ scene arrives. I imagine him looking away as he is recording his track. Also he looks at the critics and why they were wrong about it being misogynistic and obvs he has plenty of historical evidence to back up all his points. He also looks to the future, to films that owe a great debt to I Spit On Your Grave, from the Oscar winning The Accused to the French Extreme classic Baise-Moi. Briggs is always entertaining and this commentary is a must for anyone who wants to peel back the layers.
This new Blu of I Spit On Your Grave is the best that the film has ever looked, crystal clear dialogue, superb extras, it is a truly excellent, if still black-as-night experience. Essential.
(There is also a boxset that contains the original and Zarchi’s Deja Vu, as well as the remake and its two sequels)
I Spit On Your Grave is out now on double disc Blu-Ray from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment