I Spit on Your Grave (originally Day of the Woman) has been touted as the worst horror movie of all time. This is wrong on multiple accounts. Though it is quite horrid as a movie, it is not so much a horror movie as a cheap exploitation movie and it is not the worst. It is just really bad. Worst usually implies there is something to like about it. Namely, it is so bad that either you get a laugh, an excuse to drink, or you get the immense pleasure that comes out of turning it off, breaking it, and posting snarky reviews about it to your website. Really bad just means it sucks.
Grave belongs to that singular sub-genre of movies known as the Rape-Revenge genre. The central storyline is a woman (or, in some cases, a man) goes somewhere or does something which might not be the smartest thing in the world but is generally good natured. Then, a group of guys attacks her and brutally rapes her. Sometimes it can be just one guy. Sometimes the rapists comes to the girl. The girl is often left for near dead, though this is not a requirement. The movie then is supposed to switch over to revenge mode where we can watch her exact her revenge in various brutal methods on the various guys. There are several variations. I'm not about to list them all.
There are good movies that use this as a central plot. One could argue that The Crow was one of these. Deliverance, though not a superb moive, managed to integrate this plot into what is likely the most memorably cinema rape of all times. Ned Beatty's momma must be proud. That was his first role. Think about it, his friends showed up to watch it and show support and then BAM!, he's a pig squealing. HOW MUST THAT FEEL?
The problem with this genre, though, is that it relies too much, you could say exclusively, on preconcieved notions. Much like Swarm movies involve prebuilt fears of spiders, rats, or other crawlies; the Rape-Revenge director will coast on the societal need for seeing a rapist getting his just desserts. Too many are low budget features with prolonged rape scenes and pathetically timed build up, followed by a relatively brief, and overly contrived, revenge sequence.
Grave exlempifies the way NOT to make a Rape-Revenge movie. Or, to be precise, the way that too many do make one. It is thirty minutes of build up, followed by harsh and repetitive rape scenes for the next thirty. Everyone gets to be a bad guy, especially people like me who actually watched it. (Did I pay for the "pleasure" of watching that? God, I must have. Dang it...) Finally, after being beaten and left for dead, the victim rises from the comatose state she finds herself in and goes about punishing the four miscreants in whatever way is cheapest for the studio. There is a hanging that makes no physical sense. A couple of cuttings. I forget the rest. On purpose.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to point out the most brain numbingly bad aspect of the low budget Rape-Revenge movie. Exploitation directors often have the victims play the sex card back on the rapist. The victim tends to seduce the rapist, just so that she can be back in control of the sexual situation. By seduce, I mean scrump delightedly. Its a cheap plot point to get more nudity on the screen, and I suppose fulfills some desire to see the woman manipulate him, but I can seriously do without it.
This is one of the reasons why The Crow so exceeds expectations in this genre. It is about the poetic side to revenge. Contrived killings? Yes. Brutal? Yes. Fun? Yes. It also makes the scene of abuse background to the rest of the story. Grave, however, cares more about keeping the poor girl naked and violated, even when she does it for an ulterior motive. It also does something that The Crow had the good, real world, non-exploitative sense not to do: it did not set itself up to be marketed to guys that get a direct id response out of the rape. Grave is about tapping in to whatever part of your dark secret mind likes badly staged movies, either for a need to feel angry or for a need to feel turned on. It does both so badly, though, and there is no pleasure to be had here of either sort.
Oh, and for the record, it is not the worst nor most infuriating of the Rape-Revenge movies. That would be The House By the Park. That one sucked.
My score: 27/100.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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