Jeff Chitty’s second feature for his Digital Grindhouse Entertainment label is a rough and gritty rape/revenge thriller similar in vein to I Spit on Your Grave and is a definite improvement over his first film, both in terms of story and general quality. A husband, Bill (Bill Headburg), and his wife Jennifer (Amanda Dawn Harrison) make the mistake of pulling onto a back road when their car is having trouble. Unfortunately, the two backwoods hillbillies they meet, Clayton and Jimmy, aren’t much interested in the car. They kidnap the hapless couple and after sodomizing and stabbing the husband, they gang-rape the wife. Shooting her in the back as she tries to escape, they leave her for dead, a big mistake in any movie of this type. One year later, she is fully healed and ready to wreak her vengeance.
It is obvious that Chitty loves old grindhouse movies and he has extensive knowledge of those films. For anyone who also enjoys that type of fare, Survive! will be right up your alley. The film begins with a fake trailer that is an obvious homage to Thriller—A Cruel Picture (AKA They Call Her One-Eye), titled They Call Her Vengeance. The astute viewer will also notice plenty of homages in the film itself. One scene in particular has Jennifer stumbling through a field after being raped multiple times, blindly trying to escape, only to be shot in the back. This scene was reminiscent of a similar scene in the original Last House on the Left. Survive! is short—the entire film, including the two trailers, clocks in at only 70 minutes—but is as brutal and unflinching as the original films Chitty draws his inspiration from.
There are several close-ups of people being killed, with blood spurting from the wounds and dribbling from their mouths. In another scene reminiscent of Last House, Jennifer—dressed in disguise so the hillbillies won’t recognize her—engages in oral sex with Clayton. Chitty does a good job of using the open car door to obscure the action just enough to keep the scene from veering into pornographic territory, but once Jennifer uses a bit too much teeth, so to speak, we get to see her spit the offending member and lots of blood out of her mouth onto the ground. Next, holding a gun to the obviously soft-minded Jimmy, she forces him to have sex with Clayton’s corpse before killing him. As I said before, this film is not for the faint-hearted.
The acting ranges from passable to very good. Look, this film was shot on a shoestring budget and was created for a niche audience. People who enjoy this type of exploitation film (such as this reviewer) don’t expect stellar acting; in fact, it helps to lighten the mood of what would be an otherwise extremely depressing film. Having said this, I thought Ms. Harrison was excellent, especially in the toughest scenes when she was being abused. She came across as very authentic, and perhaps that is no surprise given the material.
The film has been intentionally retouched to portray that special grindhouse feel, with pops, jumps, floaters, color changes and such. Again, if you enjoy this type of film, then you probably aren’t a stranger to watching movies that aren’t in the best of shape. While I never had a chance to attend a real grindhouse, I have been in many older theaters that were so bad you could actually hear the projector whirring during the movie. To that end, Chitty also added a sound effect of a whirring projector throughout the film. That would probably be my one complaint. The whirring was a bit distracting. I understand he was going for an authentic grindhouse flavor with this film, but the constant whirring was a bit annoying at times, although I must admit there were also times that I completely forgot the effect was even there.
If you are a fan of classic exploitation or rape/revenge films and don’t mind a bit of grittiness and graininess in your movies, then head on over to Chitty’s website at www.digitalgrindhouseentertainment.com and try Survive! The film, as well as others like it, is available for download at a very reasonable price.