A Few Thoughts on “They All Must Die!” (1998)

They All Must Die! (only properly spelled and pronounced with an exclamation mark) is an obscure, ultra-low-budget, black take on I Spit on Your Grave. It was shot with a digital camcorder in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York, by eighteen-year-old reformed gang member Sean Weathers. While its picture and sound are quite poor, they do give it a rawness.

It was nice to finally sit down with it. Not because it’s “good” or “fun” or in any way enjoyable. It’s a rape-revenge movie, after all. Those are innately unpleasant. This one especially seems to want to offend people. Sexual violence alone is hard enough to confront. They All Must Die! goes a step further and factors in racism — black on white, white on black, even black on black. I know a vocal few will say blacks can’t be racist because they’re not in a position to oppress people. I consider this a dangerous line of thinking. It encourages them and other minorities to embrace and act on their own prejudices as if there’s nothing wrong with it, no consequences. I mean, look what happens here. A woman is brutally gang-raped.

Credit: DVD

In 2012, Weathers told Indie Horror Films, “All of the characters on screen in the film are based on real people I knew growing up; real situations that happened, real feelings and emotions. Back then, black people in the inner city felt that whites had taken everything from them and all they had left was the ghetto. It didn’t matter if the white people who entered the ghetto were a part of interracial dating, coming to buy drugs, or even teachers that taught in local schools. They all got it in the end if they overstayed their welcome, or said or did the wrong thing to the wrong person.”[1]

The DVD cover is plastered with phrases that harken back to the ad campaigns of the 70s. For example, it proudly states it was “banned worldwide for 13 years”. I just take this to mean it was unable to find distribution for 13 years until the remakes of The Last House on the Left (2009) and I Spit on Your Grave (2010) re-popularized the rape-revenge genre. In my opinion, it’s no coincidence it finally came out the year after I Spit On Your Grave.

It also claims to be “unauthorized”. My question is, unauthorized by who? The MPAA? The police? Society? I must admit, if nothing else, Weathers has a good grasp of the carny marketing aspect of exploitation filmmaking. The part about it being a snuff film, however, is too much for me. The whole thing is very obviously staged and badly acted throughout.

Credit: IMDb

The first place I heard about They All Must Die! was the YouTube channel Unboxed, Watched, and Reviewed. The line that sold it for me was: “There’s one point where she’s being raped and the camera moves, and her pussy, if you pause it — I didn’t, I didn’t need to, I didn’t want to — if you pause it, her pussy is this fucking wide!” he says, motioning with a 2-liter of Diet Mountain Dew. “…so she’s obviously been fucked by everybody on that crew.”

I’d love for this to be true because a) his reaction is priceless, b) morbid curiosity, and c) it would make the film sleazier, but sadly it’s not. After some quick research, I came to conclude all he saw was her pube patch. It’s too high up to be anything else. I verified this by matching up the screams in the background of his video with those in the movie. I can see how he made the mistake, though. The image quality of the DVD is horrendous, and he’s gay. If you feel like conducting your own investigation, skip to the part where the rapists threaten to burn the protagonist with an iron.

Anyway, sounds crazy, right? I made a mental note of the movie and tucked it away in the back of my head. A few months ago, my brain decided to audit that note. I don’t know why. I pulled it up. The writing was smudged. I was having one of those frustrating tip-of-the-tongue moments trying to remember the title. The only detail I could recall was that it was a black rape-revenge movie. I was also fairly certain it came out in the 2010s, which it technically did, although IMDb lists it under its production year of 1998, so that worked against me. After playing around with the site’s advanced search function for longer than I care to admit (I’m talking days), I scored a hit. I was pleased to see it was still available on Amazon for a fair price and bought a copy. I had to watch it at that point.

Understand when I say it was “nice” to sit down with it, all I mean is it felt great to finally confront the thing I’d been racking my brain over. The movie itself is a whole ‘nother story. By the time it was done, I was shocked, disappointed, confused, slightly offended, and craving a Pepsi.

It starts off with three black friends playing dice on the sidewalk. Each of them displays one whole, complete character trait — Nissan is husky, Prince is scary, and Snag is hungry. They say the word “nigga” eight times in twenty-four seconds. That’s an average of once every three seconds. Does that mean they’re winning their game? I can’t tell. They look up and notice a white woman carrying bags across the street. They proceed to yell terms of endearment at her like Snowflake, Shorty, and Cracker. They later address her as Cunt, Honky, Carrot Crotch, Bitch, and White Slut.

Snag hollers Naughty By Nature lyrics, “If you ain’t never been to the ghetto, don’t ever come to the ghetto, cos you wouldn’t understand the ghetto, so stay the fuck out of the ghetto.”

Nissan walks up and politely introduces himself, despite having cat-called her mere moments earlier. The woman’s name is Wendy Baker. She says she’s renting an apartment for two months to write a book called “America Through the Eyes of the Black Man”. In a bitchy tone, she explains that she’s only in town to get work done and turns down his offer to hang out. On one hand, getting to know local black people seems like the first logical step in writing a book about black people, so this makes no sense and gives me the impression Wendy is there to exploit their situation and bullshit her story. On the other, Nissan and co. are exceedingly crass, so I totally get why she turns him down. Her parting words foreshadow the horrors to come, “I figured with a change of scenery, there’s a much better chance of something interesting happening to me here than anywhere else.”

She opens the door and is greeted by Stan Foster the landlord, who leans in for a kiss. Wendy pulls back. Foster shows her to her apartment. Wendy is stunned to see that it looks like her own. Foster explains how he saw a picture of her living room in an article she wrote for a magazine (?) and did his best to replicate it, so she could “feel at home”. He swears he’s her biggest fan and has read all her books, including Dancing With the Devil, A Woman in a Man’s World, and Nightfall. I’m assuming she’s a household name like Stephen King because otherwise Foster being a super-fan would be too much of a coincidence.

Foster’s wife Charmaine walks in and suggests Wendy get some rest. She leads Foster out by the hand. I can only imagine how much trouble he’s in.

Meanwhile, at Prince’s, the homeboys lift weights. Snag complains that he’s hungry. He and Prince start making fun of Nissan for enjoying orally stimulating female sex organs. “At least I got pussy before,” Nissan fires back at Snag. “You’s a virgin-ass nigga talkin’ shit.” Snag says he’d rather be a virgin than eat pussy, but admits he’d try it on a white woman because they have better hygiene, nicer hair, and don’t have pimples on their asses. Nissan decides Wendy came to the ghetto for one reason and one reason only — big black cock, or “British Broadcasting Corporation” as it’s known in England.

The next morning, Foster rolls over in bed to put his arm around Charmaine, but she’s still upset that he flirted with Wendy. Foster changes his tone. He tells Charmaine she’s a dime a dozen. “This is my one shot at gettin’ with blonde hair, blue eyes.” he says. He asks his wife to please understand and support his decision to upgrade to white. The man is completely insane. Charmaine threatens to leave. I don’t blame her.

Foster walks upstairs to woo Wendy and overhears her on the phone with her agent calling him a “loser… obsessed fan” and “creepy”, which breaks his heart. He slinks back downstairs. Wendy also complains about Snag, Prince, and Nissan being racist, then hypocritically calls them “spooks”. This movie’s unique in that none of its main characters are likeable, not even the victim. As such, the rape scene we all know is coming isn’t quite as effective as it should be. Charmaine is the only sane person, and she disappears halfway through.

Nissan shoots his shot again. He stands under Wendy’s window and romantically yells her name from the street.

Wendy comes down and says hell no she’s busy a second time. Nissan takes it personally. Wendy slams the door in his face.

Nissan and co. play basket-hoops later and see Wendy reading a book on a bench. They harass her through a fence. Wendy ignores them and walks away. This angers them. They start shouting obscenities.

Meanwhile, Foster makes up with Charmaine. Their reunion is short-lived, however. He pushes her off during sex and tells her to grab her shit and get out. I’ll miss her.

That night, the homeboys wait for Wendy in front of her steps. They block her from entering and go through her groceries. Foster interrupts and brings Wendy inside to his place. Then, he comes out and gives Nissan a key to Wendy’s apartment, as payback for calling him creepy, I guess. He goes back inside and confesses his love to his favorite author, who obviously rejects him on the grounds of barely knowing him.

Wendy heads to her own apartment. The trio is already inside. They grab her and march her upstairs, like army ants with a crumb. At some point, she’s knocked out or faints. They dump water on her face to ensure she’s awake when they rape her. But first, they force her to smoke marijuana, which takes effect instantly. Wendy giggles while they trash her apartment.

The rape scene that follows is graphic and shocking. Nissan licks and sucks Wendy’s nipples, and kisses her crotch through her panties. He slaps her, punches her thighs, and is fairly rough the whole time. Once he gets going, it looks like he’s fucking her. There are brief glimpses of Wendy’s asshole region where I couldn’t help but notice it looks red and irritated. That’s either good attention to detail, or the result of some “method acting”. When Nissan finally cums he screams “Bed-Stuy, bitch!!!” Snag crawls on top and takes sloppy seconds. Prince can’t perform, so he shoves the handle of an ab roller up Wendy’s ass while she screams.

Wendy limps to the bathroom and curls up in the tub. They further humiliate her by egging her, crumbling Ritz crackers on her body (cos she’s a “cracker”) and pissing in her face.

She doesn’t even look white. She looks mixed.
Credit: DVD

Weathers says of the scene, “I deliberately kept the actress away from the actors during rehearsals and the first time they met was during the rape… to increase the tension… There were many takes in which the actors got overzealous with the actress and blurred the line between acting and reality, from going too far with the ad-libbed racial slurs to getting much too physical with her. I would end up using a lot of these takes in the film, which is why her character doesn’t come off as likeable as she was written in the script. She ad-libbed some racial slurs of her own and a lot of very real punches and kicks in retaliation that made it to the final cut.”[2]

He claims the cops were called when they shot it, and after the film’s only screening at a Manhattan bar. What bar would play this, and how did Weathers get in? He was only 18.

As is the case with many low-budget rape-revenge movies, the revenge portion fails to live up to the rape. The perpetrators are killed off in rapid succession with little being shown of their deaths, whereas Wendy’s desecration lasts twenty agonizing minutes (roughly 36:57 to 56:33).

Snag is stabbed next to a swing set at night. Nothing is shown. Prince is hammered in the face and hung from a ceiling with what looks like a power cord, echoing Matthew’s death in I Spit on Your Grave. Lastly, Nissan is seduced and then stabbed, echoing Johnny’s death. Again, nothing is shown.

Worse yet, the underwhelming deaths are revealed to be dreams and/or fantasies. Wendy wakes up in the state she was left — bruised, bloodied, battered. Foster pops in, sexually assaults her, and basically says he’ll be holding her captive like Annie Wilkes does with Paul Sheldon in Misery.

The movie ends with the camera zooming in on graffiti that reads “Jesus Saves”. It’s only 74 minutes long, despite the case, disc, and internet claiming 85. There are no credits, for “legal reasons”[1]. The DVD plays on insertion. You can access a menu, but weirdly there’s only one option — “play movie”.

To me, the most shocking part of They All Must Die! isn’t the rape, it’s the final shot that appears to absolve the rapists of their crimes. Another low-key shocking part is a section of dialogue that shifts blame to porn. During the weight lifting scene, Nissan rants about how it’s given black men an unhealthy (and apparently uncontrollable) obsession with white women. He’s on some Ted Bundy shit.

Also, at random points, subliminal images flash across the screen. These images are historic photographs of black lynchings. According to blackpast.org, the image from the useless secret menu shows Elmer Clayton, Isaac McGhie, and Elmer Jackson being lynched in Duluth, Minnesota, circa 1920, for the rape of a white teenage woman who was later examined and found to have “no signs of any physical assault or rape”[3]. The funny thing is, these images aren’t in the same aspect ratio as the movie. The movie is widescreen. The images are fullscreen.

But why were they added, and what are they trying to tell us? That generations of mistreatment have turned black people violent? That white people’s fears have come true? That they deserve to be raped as revenge? Are the images comparing/contrasting the way inner-city blacks treat whites with the way they were lynched in the past? I have no answers, only suspicions.

In my opinion, they’re not telling us anything. I believe they were added to piss people off, to ruffle people’s feathers. I believe Sean Weathers wanted his movie to be as provocative as possible in the hopes word of mouth would drive sales and propel it to cult status. You know what they say, controversy creates cash. Or maybe he just wanted the infamy. Either way, I can’t fault him for that.

As evidence, I present the distributor’s website. They use “the most brutal gang rape in motion-picture history” as a “sale point”. They also mention it won “best taboo erotica” at a film festival. Yes, erotica. If I was Sean Weathers and I really, truly intended to comment on race relations or some other important topic and wanted those comments to be taken seriously, I would not have accepted such an award. But that’s just me 🤷‍♂️

According to Weathers, “The message is up for interpretation. I think one of the most detrimental things a filmmaker can do is tell a viewer how they should interpret their film.”[1]

People might call that a cop-out. I tend to agree with the sentiment, though. If there’s one thing I love about art, it’s that it’s always open to interpretation. I’d rather find my own meanings in things and be “wrong” than be told what the “answers” are. At the end of the day, I can’t say I like, understand, or agree with They All Must Die! (you’d better be screaming those words, by the way), but I think it deserves to be seen. If it had been filmed on actual filmstock, with better lighting, etc., I guarantee you it would be talked about more. As is, it’s virtually unknown.

1. Gary, Richard. “Interview with Brooklyn independent horror film director Sean Weathers” Indie Horror Films. May 15th, 2012. Web.

2. Haberfelner, Mike. “An Interview With Sean Weathers, Indie Director” (re)Search My Trash. February 2012. Web.

3. Nielsen, Euell. “The Duluth Lynchings (1920)” Black Past. October 31st, 2017. Web.