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RONIN FLIX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Meir Zarchi
Cast:
Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace
Writing Credits:
Meir Zarchi

Synopsis:
An aspiring writer is repeatedly gang-raped, humiliated, and left for dead by four men she systematically hunts down to seek revenge.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
English DTS-HD MA Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 10/5/2021

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director/Writer Meir Zarchi
• Audio Commentary with Author/Historian Joe Bob Briggs
• ďThe Values of VengeanceĒ Featurette
• ďLocations of I Spit On Your GraveĒ Featurette
• Alternate Main Title
• Trailers & TV & Radio Spots
• Photo and Still Gallery


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RELATED REVIEWS


I Spit On Your Grave (2021 Remaster) [Blu-Ray] (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 21, 2021)

Virtually every list that looks at the most shocking and controversial movies of all-time includes 1978ís I Spit On Your Grave. This seems accurate, as the film offers a brutal experience.

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) rents a summerhouse in the remote country so she can hole up and write a novel. Most of her stay goes fine, but some moronic yokels start to torment her. This reaches a peak when gang leader Johnny (Eron Tabor) decides that heíll use Jennifer to help deflower mentally deficient virgin Matthew (Richard Pace).

Matthew befriended Jennifer earlier in the tale and resists his ďfriendsíĒ calls to rape her. That doesnít stop the others, though.

Johnny sexually assaults her first and then lets her leave before he and the others apprehend her again. More rape and violence ensue before Johnny and the others leave Jennifer in the woods.

Jennifer eventually gathers the strength to walk home, but her ordeal doesnít end there. After repeated additional assaults, she takes matters into her own hands and exacts a plan to get violent revenge on her tormenters.

As I watched Grave, one earlier movie immediately leapt to mind: 1972ís Last House on the Left. That one also has a reputation as a shocking piece of depravity, and it shares this movieís themes of rape, violence and revenge. While Grave isnít a clone of House, it shares enough similarities for me to feel certain that those behind Grave were well-acquainted with the earlier movie.

While I canít say I like Grave, I will give it credit as a better made film than its predecessor. House alternated moments of shocking violence with campy silliness and suffered from generally poor filmmaking.

House boasted terrible acting, poor camerawork, choppy editing and possibly the worst score ever committed to tape. Any potential horror it might inspire got severely undercut by all the bad work on display.

Though Grave suffers from some of the same problems, it avoids most of those pitfalls. Really, its only major weakness comes from the quality of the acting, and thatís an issue mostly during the first act.

When Keaton and the others need to portray emotions other than sadism or fear, they seem stilted and artificial. However, they pull off those broader emotions fairly well, and since most of the movie features characters who are either terrified or cruel, the actors do fine most of the time.

Grave could also use better editing Ė it tends to meander Ė but otherwise, it provides a surprisingly well-composed film. I definitely appreciate its lack of shrillness, and the fact it omits a score goes a long way in that regard.

Grave presents a nearly documentary view of its subject matter, as it doesnít go for big scare effects or startling editing. The sound remains natural, and we hear no score to tell us how to feel.

All of those factors mean that the movieís violent sequences pack more of a punch, as the usual filmmaking techniques donít allow us to distance ourselves from the brutality.

Which leads to the movieís most controversial side: the explicit nature of its sexual and violent content. The extended rape of Jennifer lasts nearly half an hour, and the last act consists of little more than her revenge. Grave spends so much time with the depravity and nastiness that it opens itself up to accusations of exploitation.

Does it deserve these? Probably not. Director Meir Zarchi relates that his experiences with a rape victim inspired the movie, and he appears to think that he needed to create such harrowing violence to accurately convey the real nature of the crime.

I understand that viewpoint, but I donít agree. I donít think a movie needs to depict its violence in such detail and across so much time to convince us that itís a horrible offense. No, I donít think the flick should sugarcoat it, but I also donít feel that so much graphic content makes sense.

Indeed, in this case, the amount of violence proves to be almost counterproductive, as we threaten to become desensitized. I understand that the movie wants us to go through the wringer with Jennifer so weíll not question her desire to kill the perpetrators, but I still donít think we need to see this level of violence. Less would be more in this case.

Thatís especially true because the graphic nature of the content more clearly opens up the filmmakers to accusations of exploitation. Itís one thing to feature brutal sequences, but itís another to linger over these scenes, which is what happens here.

I think this tendency relates mostly to Zarchiís poor editing Ė he never met any meandering shot he didnít like Ė but it still remains a concern.

In the end, I think Grave does what it wants to do in a powerful way, but I canít quite figure out why anyone would want to watch it. If you embrace the filmmakersí claims that it depicts a feminist revenge fantasy, perhaps youíll enjoy it for that side of things. Personally, I think that by the time we get to that point, weíre too overwhelmed by the rape sequences to take any pleasure from the third act.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

I Spit On Your Grave appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Given the filmís age and low-budget origins, this was a pretty satisfactory presentation.

For the most part, Grave seemed reasonably sharp. Some mild soft spots occurred, but I thought it presented more than adequate delineation, as the majority of the movie looked concise and accurate.

Jagged edges and shimmering werenít issues, and edge enhancement remained absent. Grain felt natural, and print flaws became a minor distraction. A handful of small specks materialized, but they remained largely insignificant.

Colors seemed good, as the hues were relatively peppy and dynamic. The flick used a natural palette that worked for its country setting.

Blacks were reasonably dark and tight, though they could feel crushed at times, while low light shots usually demonstrated nice delineation. A few night sequences seemed a bit dense, but those werenít a significant concern. Even with some minor concerns, this became a much better than expected presentation.

I felt less happy with the filmís DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, though it felt adequate for its age. Speech tended to sound dull and flat, but the lines came across as intelligible.

Score wasnít a factor, as the movie featured virtually no music. Effects were a pretty minor matter as well, as they stayed in the background during most of the film. Within their mild ambitions, the effects sounded decent.

The soundfield stayed subdued. For the most part, it concentrated on general ambience, so weíd get buzzing and chirping in the woods, and weíd get clinking and chatting in a diner. Some vehicle movement occurred, and a little directional dialogue also appeared.

Nothing special manifested itself, though, and the movie really didnít benefit from the surround treatment. Still, this felt like an adequate representation of the source, even if the multichannel remix seemed pointless.

How did the 2021 Blu-ray compare to the prior release from 2010? The 5.1 soundscape remained similar, but the 2021 disc boasted superior quality. Dialogue literally became unintelligible at times on the 2010 version, whereas that didnít occur here.

Visuals also offered improvements, as the 2021 disc seemed better defined and cleaner than its predecessor. This became an obvious upgrade.

This Blu-ray includes a decent roster of supplements, including two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director/writer Meir Zarchi, as he offers a running, screen-specific chat.

Zarchi discusses the inspiration for the film, sets and locations, photography and other technical areas, story, script and character issues, cast and performances, editing, the absence of score, and controversies.

Zarchi clearly reads from notes for his commentary, so donít expect a track with a sense of spontaneity; the director can seem a bit stiff and stilted at times. Nonetheless, he seems prepared, and the text allows him to ensure that he digs into the movie in a fairly rich manner.

Yes, he can come across as a bit too eager to tell us about the filmís greatness, but he still delivers an informative piece that lets us know a lot about the flick.

For the second commentary, we hear from author/historian Joe Bob Briggs. He also offers a running, screen-specific piece that both attacks and defends the movie. Briggs provides a combination of production notes, interpretation and mockery.

This doesnít turn into a simple MST3K-style attempt to make fun of the flick. Briggs does laugh at the filmís sillier aspects, but he also strenuously defends it against its many critics, as he frequently rebuts their complaints.

Briggs makes a pretty good case for it, really. He doesnít seem to really buy into Zarchiís pretensions, but he also doesnít see it as a basic piece of exploitation.

Briggs provides a nice contrast to the self-important seriousness of the Zarchi track. He occasionally does do little more than narrate the movie, and his frequent use of the word ďretardĒ becomes offensive, but he still makes this an amusing and enjoyable chat.

We find more from the director during the 29-minute, one-second The Values of Vengeance: Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit On Your Grave. Here Zarchi chats about the movieís influences, casting and his relationship with the lead actress, photography and editing, the absence of score, MPAA concerns and distribution, and the filmís legacy.

Zarchi spends about half the program with new material and half with info from the commentary. I canít say that this ends up as a particularly fascinating piece, though, as most of the fresh remarks seem lackluster. Itís not a bad chat but itís not especially illuminating.

New to the 2021 Blu-ray, Locations of I Spit On Your Grave lasts 11 minutes, eight seconds and gives us a tour from host Michael Gingold. He takes us through the places used for the Spit shoot.

It becomes a decent look at how these spots changed over the last few decades, though Gingold doesnít say much and this becomes a dry overview. We do get a few comments from John M. Valentine, a resident of one of the locations, but he doesnít add a ton of insights.

Next comes an Alternate Opening Title. This runs a whopping 16 seconds and differs from the actual main film only in that it uses the moniker Day of the Woman, the flickís original title. Thatís fine for archival purposes, I guess.

Rare Photos from the Set offers a running nine-minute, 32-second montage that presents 132 images. Most come from the original shoot, but we also see some script pages, print ads and shots from a modern-day documentaryís sessions.

Still Gallery brings 21 more pictures via a traditional still frame format. ďSetĒ becomes the more valuable of the two.

We also get two trailers for Grave, three TV Spots and three Radio Ads.

The controversial I Spit On Your Grave lives up to its billing as a brutal, graphic depiction of rape and violence, but does that make it worth watching? Not really. While I can understand the filmmakersí goals, I think the movie becomes too unpleasant to achieve them. The Blu-ray provides surprisingly solid picture quality, decent audio and some interesting supplements. Overall, I think this is a strong release for a movie I donít want to watch again.

To rate this film visit the original review of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main