This movie was heavily discussed in the Rape-Revenge chapter of Carol Clover’s Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, and so went to the top of my list of things I needed to see to flesh out my knowledge of all the notable films. It begins at a fashion designer’s studio in New York’s garment district, where our heroine Thana [get it? Look it up] leads a beleagured existence as lowly worker. We are introduced to her creepy, seemingly gay boss who doesn’t seem to hold his employees in the highest esteem.
As the female workers leave the studio they must navigate a gauntlet of thuggish men making leering come-ons. Guys can be utterly oblivious to this, but I have heard several New York women describe the relentless come-ons they endure every day on present-day streets. Anyway, Thana, who is mute by the way, is dragged into an alley and raped. I did not find the rape to be presented in an exploitative way, and the movie spends a lot of time afterward expressing Thana’s mortification. No sooner does she get home than she is raped again, by a guy who had come in to rob her apartment, only this time she dispatches him with a paperweight, then an iron. Again we have several close-ups of Thana’s face, seemingly saying “I CAN NOT believe what kind of day I’m having.”
Anyway, so Thana has a corpse in her apartment, and now, a gently-used .45-cabliber pistol. She sensibly puts paper down before chopping the second rapist up [he bleeds small amounts of thick red paint], and dividing his body into “fun-size” portions which she seals in black garbage bags. In here is an homage to Psycho as we see a double-exposed eye and drain. Oh—and when disposing of any chopped-up bodies, be sure to scoop that excess viscera out of the drain! Anyway, Thana will have to live on take-out for a while, as these bags fill up her entire refigerator.
So Thana, who also has a witch-like annoyingly nosy neighbor with a yappy dog—starts taking a piece of the second rapist out in a bag every time she goes out. She hangs with her friends [which seems a little unrealistic as she does not speak—ever—and is presented as very nerdy and withdrawn], where they see this guy grossly making out with this girl. One of Thana’s friends tells him to cut it out, then the guy comes over and starts coming on to them! They all leave, but he corners Thana outside, and it’s not too long before she blows him away. Then she shoots a pimp who is beating one of the women in his employ, and around now it’s starting to become clear that—she’s doing it for fun! Soon she completely changed and is dressing really sexily and wearing bright red lipstick and it’s clear that she’s going out to lure men to their deaths.
Now when I heard about this movie I pictured that she would be presented as very aggressive and vengeful, but her persona remains very haunted and scared throughout. There is also a little humor in where she chooses to get rid of the bags, for example a guy’s car trunk as he's packing for a trip and in a bag woman’s cart. One humorously imagines the guy saying “What’s this bag?” once he arrives in the Hamptons or whatever.
Nevertheless, she is still having a lot of trouble at work, leading to her forced attendance at the company Halloween party, where the longest, most-repetitive disco-jazz song is played. The rest of the movie is her killing men, her going catatonic at work, and her nosy neighbor getting closer and closer to finding out what’s going on. Things go like this until it concludes.
So we obviously have a feminist fable of revenge about a woman [who literally has no voice] who turns to murder at first to avenge herself, and eventually on behalf of all women. What sets it apart is the psychology given to Thana, and the way it portrays her as acting out of shock and psychic trauma rather than a clear-sighted plan of revenge.
Since I watched this, I have seen I Spit On Your Grave, a notorious movie from 1978 in which a woman is raped by four men in one day and spends the rest of the movie killing them one by one, and I think it's safe to surmise that that movie gave Fererra the idea for this one. They are similar in the overall story, but also in the amount of time they spend on how very horrible the women feel after their rapes. I would guess that Fererra thought "Okay, what if we did that but brought it into the city and made it a more ideological thing about a woman getting revenge on men in general?"
As an idea, this movie is very interesting and worth seeing. As a movie, it is slightly less so as it gets repetitive and loses steam [even at only 80 minutes]. Nevertheless, the interesting outweighs the bad and makes it one of interest to anyone interested in what some movies are saying about relations between women and men.
Yes, though it’s more successful as an idea than as a movie.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is about a woman who is raped FOUR times in one day, and goes about killing her rapists one by one. I would lay money that it gave Fererra the idea for this movie.