Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Death Weekend (1976)

Death Weekend is one of the Canadian exploitation movies made in the seventies and eighties, and this one was strictly made in the wake of Deliverance and other horror movies about hicks terrorizing nice city folks. Death Weekend, however, doesn't portray any of the city folks being very nice.

Produced by young Ivan Reitman, Death Weekend is actually a pretty good film, with solid direction by veteran TV director William Fruet and good actors, mainly with the menacing Don Stroud as the main terrorizer. Brenda Vaccaro is also good as the terrorized woman. She is spending a weekend on a cottage owned by a Corvette-driving dentist playboy, a sleazy scumbag who takes pictures of women he's taken to his cottage. The film begins with a good car chase the terrorizers lose, hence the revenge on the playboy and his woman. 

Everyone in the picture is a scumbag, save for Vaccaro, who's resourceful, strong and knows how to use things (which the dentist doesn't do). One might say Death Weekend is an attack on self-content petty bourgeoisie and also a description of the threats it's facing. There's a frightful scene in the middle of the film where the gangsters start to destroy the playboy's place, throwing things, smashing furniture, books, bottles, mirrors etc. It goes on and on - a whole way of life is being ruined here, almost in a way that an absurdist or surrealist theater group might do. Antonin Artaud might've liked this film. 

Having said that, it's a mild disappointment that Vaccaro's revenge is a little too easy. The major flaw in the film are the last seconds which may be telling that Vaccaro fell in love with his rapist. It's pretty ugly, given the film doesn't show the rape scenes in an erotic way of any kind. 

There's no DVD of the film at the present, but I managed to see a 35 mm print. The colours of the print had started to fade, but not too much. Some of the scenes seemed to be cut. 

Here's the Canuxploitation Site review of the film with more background on the makers. 

More Overlooked Movies here


Todd Mason said...

Another child, like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, of THE VIRGIN SPRING, as well, at another remove...and an anticipation of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.

Todd Mason said...

And, of course, there's nothing particularly noble about the city folks in DELIVERANCE, either. They just aren't quite as vicious as the inbred folks till provoked.

Juri said...

Yes, you're right in both accounts. There's not much of Dickey's ambivalence towards his city folks in DEATH WEEKEND, that's for sure.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have not heard the name Brenda Vacarro in a long time.

Juri said...

Her face seemed somewhat familiar, but I'm not sure if I've really seen her in other films before.