Saturday, December 31, 2011

Death Weekend (1977)

Some men are sly, some aggressive: only a lady can clean up their act

This was a low to moderately budgeted Canadian thriller--from producer Ivan Reitman who would go on to do "Animal House" and "Ghostbusters"--about what happens when road games are taken too far when a group of out-of-control bullies attempt to take advantage of a two regular, working class folks in a remote setting.

A successful but superficial dentist named Harry and his newly met model friend Diane--who's unlike the typical diva that's afraid to get her hands dirty or ready to put out at the drop of a dime--take a trip out to a secluded area to spend the weekend at his cabin by the lake in Canada. Diana takes over the wheel in Harry's black Corvette with a super charger engine and finds herself battling another red muscle car packed to the seats with four rowdy hooligans. Their leader, Lep, sums up what's to come with the line: "You'll get yours baby" as he licks his lips when she gets the best of them. Lacking the education to even spell their name or calculate the total bill for alcohol consumption that day, the delinquents still end up finding the cabin after doing some local terrorizing on the way. There they vandalize the property and play psychological games with their captures as a form of over-the-top payback with no end in sight except to satisfy their depravity and lust.

The more booze they abuse, the more the events escalate to dangerous levels till the victims can find it in themselves to put a stop to the mayhem and terror. Let's just say, when pushed against a wall: don't mess with this chick! The story is pretty straightforward with no subtext or underlying driving point to fall back on except for revenge and more revenge: you mess with me, I'll mess with you. The rape scenes are pretty tame compared to "The Last House" and others that fall more so in the rape/revenge format than this. She's thrown around and traumatized, which is a nasty act in itself, but it's questionable if there was actual insertion. The film still has a certain mood that comes with a share of ugliness to it with arrogant playboys trying to be sly to get their way in the world, to then arrogant rednecks becoming forceful to get what they want out of others. Then there's a strong lady in the middle to put a stop to both at separate times--probably doing the world a favor; like mother nature taking out a small village headed towards destruction.

With the exception of Brenda Vaccaro, playing the part of Diane, the characters are only given simple archetypes with limited range. Despite this, the performers take their parts with a bit of seriousness even when giving the occasional rough-house joke that's usually one sided and at the expense of the victim. "Death Weekend," aka "The House by the Lake," is a film that relies on its interactions and thrills rather than its narrative. On the one hand the events move along steadily and provide enough room to make the woman's actions a little more believable than jumping right into primal instincts as if she was just a caveman yesterday. Though, on the other, from holding back with some reserve it limits the number of exceptional scenes that could have taken advantage of the situation and made this more of a memorable classic. The characters do a few unpredictable things within a certain scene but overall this still feels somewhat formulaic in the larger scope. It's still a movie that a viewer can count on even if it doesn't pull out a number of surprises outside of the boxed-in template.

Rating: 6/10

Director: William Fruet (Wedding in White)
Stars: Brenda Vaccaro, Chuck Shamata, Don Stroud
Link: IMDB

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