After a productive weekend, what better way to end a Sunday than having some little R&R, ie. rape and revenge. A beloved child has many names, as we clearly see with this cult classic. Personally I like the I Spit on Your Grave the best, it has brutal honesty and fits with the main theme of the movie, unapologetic revenge, perfectly.
I have to take a side step here and talk about the poster for the movie for a moment. It’s got a really simple design and has a great grindhouse vibe to it that reflects the violent and brutal nature of the movie very well. On a glance it doesn’t look like much but it grows on you surprisingly quickly. It’s super cheap and trashy looking, which has its own charm, and to make matters even better, at least to me, it has two blatant inaccuracies concerning the plot description that makes it super adorable. The poster not so subtly states Jennifer exacting revenge from five men, but it’s actually four in the movie. And they’re suppose to get cut, chopped, broken and burned, but the last bit doesn’t happen at all unless I somehow completely zoned out during that part. To my recollection, she just hangs the mentally slow fella from a tree and then drops his body to the river, she castrates the gas station attendant with a knife and then locks him up in the bathroom to bleed to death, and the remaining two douchebags she exacts revenge by mutilating one to death with a motorboat propeller and the other one she kinda ironically kills with his own weapon, when she takes his axe and swings it at his back. Technically nobody is really broken either, but maybe that’s meant to be symbolic? Oooh, maybe the burned part is meant to be like a sick burn thing, when she fools the one guy into thinking he’s getting a hand job and instead she cuts his penis off? Nah, that doesn’t really make sense.
After seeing Blindness I was pretty confident I couldn’t be shocked by a rape scene in a movie ever again, but this came pretty close. It’s very down to Earth (can you say that about rape?) and brutal, not to mention horrible long, which really is what is the worst part of it. Every time you think the movie is done raping Jennifer, it’s not long before she has to undergo it again. And again. There ain’t no stops on this rape train it seems, at least not until they rapists wise up a little and realize they have to kill their victim or they’ll get arrested. At which point they course they in their infinite wisdom decide to assign the task to the only slightly mentally retarded member of their team, who isn’t able to go along with it, obviously, thus allowing Jennifer to survive her assault and plot for revenge against her attackers.
To say the movie is controversial is to put it mildly. And I can see why the stirs such strong reaction. The subject matter and the brutality of the rape is sickening. But I have to agree with the people who defend the movie, as at its core, it is a very pro-feminist film. It’s never titillating, the men are all shown in particularly bad light (even Matthew, who initially is a bit sympathetic but eventually is revealed to be as irredeemable in the end) and the rape itself is in no way portrayed as a power fantasy, it’s just disgusting violence aimed at Jennifer. Admittedly Jennifer is a victim for about a half of the movie’s running time, but you have to take notice that she doesn’t just submit to being a victim for the entire movie, and allow the rape to define her. Quite the contrary, she takes charge of the situation and is shown to overcome her brutal assault and trauma. She is even capable and ruthless enough to form a very cold and calculative vengeance plot that she then successfully enacts. She is in essence able to put her life back together, as symbolized by her is putting her torn manuscript together piece by piece. That’s pretty empowering from my perspective. It’s a a brutal tale of survival and revenge, not a victimization story.