This still-notorious film now seems tame in the gore and nudity departments, but its violence against women is still outrageous.
Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton, the great-niece of movie legend Buster Keaton) is a young, hip, free-spirited woman of the 70s, who leaves her home in New York City for a long vacation in Connecticut, where she plans to write her first novel at a rented lakeside cottage.
While sunbathing in her bikini, she attracts the attention of a gang of local men (who she had previously met at a gas station) who drag her into the woods and rape her. Then they let her go.
But the men follow her as she crawls naked through the forest and rape her again, also sodomizing her this time.
Finally, she makes it home through the woods – but they are waiting for her there and they rape her for a third time, mocking her manuscript and ripping it to shreds and forcing her to perform oral sex. They beat her, ram a bottle up her vagina and leave her bleeding and semi-conscious on the floor of her vacation home.
The assaults are ugly, brutal, gruelling and completely devoid of any eroticism. It’s a hard film to watch.
As they leave the scene, the men send the retarded Matthew (Richard Pace, pictured at left) back into the house with a knife to kill her – but Matthew can’t bring himself to do it, although he tells the others he has killed her and they leave.
As Jennifer heals from her wounds and recovers her strength over the next few weeks, she plots revenge against her rapists.
She sets her plans in motion as – one by one – she cajoles, tricks, and seduces them before making them pay the ultimate price for her violation.
She uses romanticism and innocence to seduce Matthew, and then, while they’re having sex, she slips a noose around his neck and hangs him from a tree.
Johnny, the ringleader (Eron Tabor) meets the goriest death when Jennifer seduces him and then slices his penis off with a knife while he is in a bath. She then calmly sits downstairs listening to opera music (to drown out his screams) as he is bleeding to death, locked in the bathroom.
The deaths of Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleeman) are tame by comparison. Jennifer kills one with an axe and the other with the propeller of her outboard motor, before riding off into the sunset.
Shot in a blank, unemotional style with no musical score at all – which paradoxically makes it very intense – and featuring the longest rape scene in film history (around 40 minutes), this is not one for children – or feminists of any age.
Filmed and originally with the title Day of the Woman, the film has also been shown under the titles I Hate Your Guts and The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill. The title I Spit on Your Grave was first used for the 1980 re-release.
An inferior 2010 remake was far more sensational and gory, tapping into the “torture-porn” wave of cinema that seemed to dominate the horror genre in the 2000s.