After a week's hiatus, the stars have once again aligned, and Missy Yearian of Chickapin Parish and myself are in your face at last with more examples of horror flicks we're too chickenshit to ever sit down and watch again. Gape in amazement at our weak-heartedness this week, as we bemoan how deeply traumatized we were by two of the true standouts of exploitation cinema, past and present...
I actually reviewed this bit of French depravity right here in the Vault, not long after it first came out. And if memory served, I described it as a film which "challenges the definition of entertainment." And now, a couple of years later, I stand by that assertion. Yes, Inside is an excellent movie, and yes it deserve recognition as one of the must-see horror flicks of the past decade. Nevertheless, after that first must-see experience, I can honestly say I have no plans of ever putting it in my DVD player again.
Maybe it hits a little too close to home. Maybe being a parent is what makes it difficult to get through. Perhaps it's the brutal realism of all the gore, and how far removed it is from the cartoonishness that usually makes extreme violence in film more palatable. Simply put, Inside packs one hell of a punch and doesn't let up. It's far from what anyone would describe as a fun bit of recreation.
Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury are no doubt to be commending for crafting a superior thriller. In fact, they've done their job so well that I still get chills thinking about the things I saw as their movie washed over me in the dark that night. It took me to places I didn't want to go, and held me there far longer than I was comfortable staying. Yes, this is in some ways the mark of great art, and I'd be hard pressed to say that Inside isn't great art. It probably is. I just can't stomach that much unpleasantness. Call me what you want. I've heard worse.
Ironically, despite my trepidations, I will say that it's a film that should be seen, even if it's only that one time. It's raw, powerful, and never anything less than completely gripping. Just prepare to be disturbed. The subject matter is certainly beyond the pale for anyone who is merely a casual genre viewer. And I'm sure there are plenty of hardcore fanatics more than equipped to sit through repeated viewings of a film about a stalker trying to rip an unborn fetus from a woman's belly. I'm just not one of them.
...And now, I pass the mic to Missy, who shares her aversion to Meir Zarchi's nasty ode to rape revenge...
I Spit on Your Grave (a.k.a. Day of the Woman) (1978)
It took me about twenty-eight years to have the courage to watch this movie. No, really, I thought about it for years before I finally queued it up and had the courage to sit down and watch it. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, I was really okay. I thought, “Gee. This isn’t so bad. I’m sure it can’t get much worse.”
And then there’s that rape scene. Twenty-six minutes of sexual violence and four moments of penetration is more than I can handle and keep my sanity intact. It should be more than anyone can handle. While viewing Jenny Hill’s abuse, I had the though that I must be implicated in the proceedings because I sat there complacently and watched. It’s a very Kitty Genovese situation, no? Of course, this idea of implicating the viewer is nothing new, and in fact, it’s been used to much greater effect by directors from Wes Craven (The Last House on the Left) to Michael Haneke (Funny Games). But the complicity in I Spit on Your Grave is different than the other films that employ this technique. I Spit on Your Grave covers your very skin in its filth. Never before have I felt so compelled to shower after seeing a film.
Ultimately, what makes the difference in Meir Zarchi’s film is that it is filled with hate and misogyny. No matter how hard people try to defend it, you just can’t get away from the fact that it murders its own believability in the service of its own misogynistic impulses. This becomes clear in the two scenes in which Jenny seduces her abusers. There is no excuse for such blatant woman-hating, and I myself find myself sickened just thinking about the scene in which Jenny climbs into a bathtub with Johnny and gives him a handjob—even though that handjob is followed by a castration.
Many people hold this film up as a perfect example of Grindhouse exploitation cinema, and they wouldn’t be wrong to do so. However, that descriptor (I think we can all agree here) certainly doesn’t mean the film is good or that’s it’s worth a moment of your time. And while I fully admit to seeing rape revenge films due to a sadistic revenge fantasy I myself harbor, the justice in this film is not worth the abuses you’ll endure to witness it.
When Jenny stumbles through the woods thinking she’s escaped her rapists, she finds herself once again in their clutches. This happens again and again, and as an audience member, you’ll feel what Jenny feels. You’ll beg for the scene to end. You’ll beg to be set free. And when you are, it’ll be much too late. This film will have gained power over you, and it’s something from which you might never recover.
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