Back in 1978, writer/director Meir Zarchi came under immense scrutiny with his film I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (then known as DAY OF THE WOMAN) for its relentless portrayal of gang rape and the victim’s violent revenge. Some call it feminism, while others like Roger Ebert called it “a vile bag of garbage.” It ganged a cult following for its controversy and the brutal depiction of a woman’s vengeance. It had enough popularity to garner pop culture references and even a remake in 2010, providing an even more gruesome version of the original.
In I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3: VENGEANCE IS MINE, Sarah Butler reprises her role from the original remake (part two featured different characters and storyline) as Jennifer Hills, still struggling with her abusive past and fearing that she might not move on. Per suggestion, Jennifer joins a support group (headed by most flakey counselor) that initially she scoffs at, but ends up finding an unlikely friend in Marla. Together they listen to other victims’ stories and get themselves anonymously involved almost as vigilantes against those perceived as sexual predators. Marla comes off as a bit of an adrenaline junkie and seems to be the counterpart Jennifer needs as she fantasizes of replicating her revenge from the first film onto others, even the innocent.
Soon Marla is found dead, a victim of sexual abuse and her killer goes free. Unsurprisingly, this sets off Jennifer and she embarks on a killing rampage that will make men shift in their seats. Her “victims” include the stepfather a young girl in her support group who continues to be abused at home with no help from her mother and anyone who even remotely looks at her seductively.
VENGEANCE IS MINE features the most gruesome castration I’ve ever seen, heightening only what was hinted at in Wes Craven’s THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and a cringe worthy sodomizing sequence. There are no limits here, but these scenarios are against the male predators and the film is unapologetic in its delivery. Butler is tough and great to watch, letting the audience question their morality of what she is doing is right or wrong. Is this justice or simply emotionally charged revenge? It’s strange to see a rape revenge story become a franchise that’s apparently a big hit for the home video market, but this sequel avoids the misogyny against women I feared it would have and predecessors have been accused of exploiting.
Most of the men featured here are misogynists who catcall at every moment she walks past them. The men here can’t control themselves and need women like her to put them in their place. I initially had an issue with this as it took a sense of reality out of the movie as they came off as cartoons and everyone is just so sexually attracted to her. After watching some more, however, it became apparent what we are watching is being told from an unreliable narrator and her motivation causes a shift in tone as to how every character will be perceived. This is an interesting plot device and she clearly wants you on her side, even if you think she’s gone too far. For the most part, I actually really enjoyed this movie; more prior to Marla’s death as she proves to be more colorful characters, executing some fun scenes in what could have been a grim thriller. I recommend it for fans of the franchise seeking a slight twist.