Zarchi wrote, directed, edited, produced, and financed I Spit on Your Grave based on his real-life experience of trying to seek justice for a rape victim. After discovering a bloody, naked woman in a public park, the director made the mistake of going to the police instead of a hospital. He was disgusted by how the police handled everything, badgering the victim and choosing bureaucracy over her welfare. The film is a reaction to a system that allows rape to thrive unpunished by using cinema to expose and punish the perpetrators. In addition, it de-sexualizes the rapes, removing any motivation other than to hurt and degrade.
While he doesn’t consider it a horror film, it contains some of the most horrifying sequences of sexual trauma ever captured. The lack of a score intensifies this. There is no music to form a prefabricated emotional response. That the film was initially unleashed on majority male audiences makes the experience even more radical. The narrative forces male viewers to identify with the protagonist’s agony, as they then cheer her on as she seeks revenge. Academic Carol J Clover said the title is “predicated on cross-gender identification of the most extreme, corporeal sort.”
“…a chance to be viewed as the radical cinematic event it was made to be.”
This is capped off with the film’s most notable feature, the cathartic castration of the male member. Ebert’s review spoils all the details of the kill scenes as his way of getting people to avoid seeing I Spit on Your Grave. I won’t do that here, but I will discuss the most famous one, where a rapist gets his dick cut off in a bathtub by Jennifer. She starts by squeezing the guy underwater, then loping it clean off as he talks about how it feels so good it hurts.
While nothing is graphically represented, the staging and the blood-filled bathtub still create a phantom limb-like gushing between the legs of males. That the majority of male grindhouse audiences paid to go through this over and over again is both telling and confounding. The sequence led the movie to become a huge mainstream hit on the emerging home video market. The video release spent 14 consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard chart for film sales, back when videos were about $100 a tape.
It also allowed I Spit on Your Grave to be accessed by women, specifically ten thousand girl slumber parties. Throughout my life, I have only heard women mention I Spit on Your Grave, always in reference to it being the film where the dick gets cut off in the bathtub. Zarchi always preferred the more feminist title Day of the Woman, and Camille Keaton has always stood by it as a condemnation of rape culture instead of a glorification of it. In this case, time and distribution have finally allowed I Spit on Your Grave a chance to be viewed as the radical cinematic event it was made to be.
"…the film's most notable feature, the cathartic castration of the male member."