Camille Keaton - Jennifer Hill
Eron Tabor - Johnny
Richard Pace - Matthew
Anthony Nichols - Stanley
Gunter Kleeman - Andy
Year - 1978
Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4
There are some films that have a reputation of being so offensive and so brutal that you either never watch them or you do, depending on your curiosity level. For me, exploitation films are those love-it-or-hate-it movies that will either turn you off, or actually make you see the message being told through its raw and provacative art. There was one film that I've always heard about but never got the chance to see. Until now. I finally caught the 1978 sexploitation cult film, DAY OF THE WOMAN aka I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. I had heard so much about the film [from its brutal visuals of rape and the aftermath] that I knew I had to at least watch it once before I pass on to the next life. So I popped it in the DVD player after receiving the film from Netflix as me and two of my cousins watched this film unfold. I have to admit...I'm having trouble finding the right words for this film. And that's a first for me.
New York aspiring novelist Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton) heads to an isolated cabin for the summer in order to work on her book in peace. While relaxing by the lake, skinny-dipping, and canoeing in her bikini, Jennifer captures the attention of four male locals. She's treated to all the mating calls and whistles that perverted men place upon women, but she's not impressed by their "charms", keeping to herself. The four males, wanting some excitement for a change, decide to abduct Jennifer and brutally rape her in the woods three times in the span of 40 minutes [no joke]. Jennifer survives this ordeal, but rightfully so, it changes her. No longer a victim, she decides to strike vengeance on these bastards in very horrible ways.
DAY OF THE WOMAN aka I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is one of those films that's really hard to review. This is a highly controversial film. That's not hype. I mean, you see an innocent woman get gang-raped for almost 40 minutes. And they show much of the rape as possible, not surprising me that this got an X rating when it was released almost 30 years ago. I mean, it's just a disturbing moment in cinema, that I'm actually surprised someone got away with actually filming this and distributing this film to be seen by an audience. It was very hard for me to sit through the rape stuff. I don't find rape entertaining at all. It's probably one of the worst things you can do to any woman. No woman deserves to suffer through something like that. So yeah, I was kind of silent during the whole scene. I mean, it's not something I can really discuss. Was it filmed well? I guess. I mean, it was just...wow.
I think this film reminds me mostly of Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which I'm sure was the main influence on DAY OF THE WOMAN. Both films seem to have this message about class differences and the struggles they cause between the richer city folk and the poorer folks in the sticks. The idea of radical feminism is also implied. However, DAY OF THE WOMAN takes what LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT did one step further. I mean, not only did it show rape, but it also displayed the actions of a woman who's tired of being a victim, murdering the men who oppressed her. And boy, did she get revenge on these bastards! It was like a female DEATH WISH. The most brutal revenge moment was Johnny in the bathtub, which while he deserved it, still numbed my private area from what she did to him. The others were okay too, but that just sticks out and really creates a memorable film about female empowerment.
While I didn't think the direction by Meir Zarchi was impressive visually, he sure gets his point across really well and creates a truly memorable exploitation film. All the disturbing scenes get a ton of screen time. Suspense and tension was definitely there, especially towards the end. Pacing wasn't an issue. And I felt the transformation of Jennifer turning from victim-to-vigilante like a Phoenix rising from its ashes, was believable. I mean, what woman who got raped wouldn't want revenge on those who hurt her? There's actually one scene where Jennifer tapes her typed pages for her books after the rapists mocked her writing and ripped the pages up. I sort of saw it as a metaphor of Jennifer trying to put her life back together, a piece at a time. And while we know nothing more about this woman except that she's a writer from New York, that one act really told me that she was determined to make sure no one shattered her again. I think little scenes like that really helps develop character.
I also liked that there was no musical score in the film. It made the film so gritty and raw that when the whole rape scene is shown, you lose touch with reality and actually believe that Jennifer is being forced sexually with these horrible, dispicable men. I was actually shamed to be part of the same gender as these sons of bitches. I wanted Jennifer to make them pay for what they did to her. I think if there was music, it wouldn't have been so effective. It actually feels like a documentary, which makes the film that much more disturbing to watch. The low-budget feel really works in the film's favor.
I didn't really like the ending though. I thought the last victims of Jennifer's wrath got their desserts a bit easier than I had hoped. Plus it just cut to the credits after she got her way. I was like, "Wait. That's it?" Just felt kinda lame in my opinion. Wasn't really satisfied with how the ending went down. But at least Jennifer got her "happy" ending of sorts.
Not much to say about the acting. It wasn't really great in my opinion, but it didn't really matter. I bought all the performances as if they were real. And I thought Camille Keaton was mesmerizing throughout the entire film. She was beautiful and had great moments of silence after the fact when she would just stare intensely at the men who attacked her. Gave me chills actually. I honestly believed she went through this ordeal, and I was behind her every step of the way of payback. The men were stereotypical ignorant pricks, which I was totally convinced of as well. I'm glad they suffered Jennifer's wrath. She should have done worse to them, actually. I wouldn't have stopped.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE BEING DISTURBED BY THIS FILM
1. Spending time with your son is great. Teaching him how to toss down a knife, which will most likely turn him into a potential serial killer, is a lot better than playing catch.
2. New York is an evil place. Not true. New Jersey is still Hell on Earth.
3. Don't befriend shy, nerdy types that talk alot and ask too many questions. They'll probably end up hurting you down the line. See also: Bates, Norman
4. One of the evil bastards wondered if women take a shit. That's why you should stay in school, kiddies!
5. Women in the 1970s were really hairy down there. George is not the only bush that needs to go away.
6. Jennifer got all dirty by crawling in mud. I see where Shakira got her inspiration for her "Whenever Wherever" video.
7. The guy who looked like Gilligan couldn't ejaculate in front of his friends while raping Jennifer. No wonder the Professor got both Ginger and Mary Ann.
8. Never try to kill a beautiful naked woman with a knife. It'll only go limp while your personal dagger rises to the occasion.
9. Don't let a woman offer you a hot bath. That's not a loofa she's using to get rid of unwanted flesh.
10. Don't beg the girl you raped for forgive you while you're outside her boat in the middle of the lake. You're gonna lose some motor skills over that mistake.
THE FINAL HOWL
It's hard to make light of a film like DAY OF THE WOMAN. I honestly can't recommend this to anyone until you're really curious. It's a surreal film that's not really entertaining, but you want to know what's gonna happen next while rooting for some wronged woman to get revenge on the four assholes who did her wrong. It's a really depressing film, yet the real world is depressing in itself. The film really tried to form sociological ideas about morality and justice while shocking the audience at the same time. All I can say is that if you haven't seen this one, watch at your own risk. However, I'm glad I took it because DAY OF THE WOMAN really is a film that leaves an impression on you long after its over. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...