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  Death Weekend
Year: 1976
Director: William Fruet
Stars: Brenda Vaccaro, Don Stroud, Chuck Shamata, Richard Ayres, Kyle Edwards, Don Granberry, Ed McNamara, Michael Kirby
Genre: Horror, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: They reckon you can’t be an angry young man all your life, and that is indeed true, but if John Travolta’s retarded Grease-ball buddies managed to survive heroin, VD and the draft to see it past thirty, this is how they might have ended up. Four middle-aged madmen with nuthin’ better to do than drive around all day in their souped-up jalopy, getting drunk, slapping each other and yelling, “Ow mama!” at any young lady who dares to walk past. And this gang really is a bunch of reprobates, the biggest losers ever to crawl out of the high-school autoshop. The Runt is the most rancid, a horrible Tony Robinson lookalike with an army-regulation crew-cut and Coke-bottle glasses. Then there’s Stan; little more than a whisky-soaked hobo, really, and Native American Frankie appears to have spent too long guzzling the palefaces’ firewater. Even Lep, the supposedly handsome gang-leader is little more than a steroid-pumped variant on On The Buses’ conductor Jack, right down the receding long-hair.

These are some of the most evil villains ever to sink ankle-deep into the trash-film quagmire – one of Death Weekend’s most wonderfully brainless moments comes when they needlessly drag a fairly amiable park ranger about half a mile down the road with their car for simply asking a question - but even this bunch of freaks can’t be any less likeable than Harry. Harry is a dentist, a rich dentist who has no problem with letting everyone know how rich he is. He’s actually the sleaziest character here – one of his hobbies includes hiding behind a two-way mirror, secretly taking voyeuristic photos of the female guests at his weekend hideaway. Driving up there with yet another chick – a freeze-dried Felicity Kendall with a voice like an ashtray full of Marlboro fag-ends – he makes the mistake of letting her take the wheel of his expensive sports car and she almost immediately runs the forty-something hot-rodders off the road. As you might have already guessed, these unscrupulous scumbags aren’t gonna think twice about getting their revenge.

Death Weekend is another example of that underrated seventies’ genre, the hostage or home-invasion movie which exploded forth on the heels of Last House On The Left and to a lesser extent, in spirit at least, from movies such as Straw Dogs and Death Wish, movies depicting people suffering at the hands of psychotic thugs in otherwise safe, familiar environments; usually their own home. A slightly sleazier variant on the rape/revenge genre – the main difference being that these movies concentrate more on rape and humiliation, throwing in the revenge almost as an afterthought. They don’t fare particularly well with the censors but this little beauty surprisingly managed to escape the Video Nasties list and subsequent notoriety.

But underlying this truly reprehensible genre is a deeper, more philosophically chin-scratching socio-political undercurrent: that is THE CLASS WAR!!! Almost every single one of these movies features groups of no-good, blue-collar losers taking unbridled revenge on upper/middle-class wankers (a couple of notable exceptions are Terror Express in which the perpetrators are the decadent rich, and Fight for Your Life which takes an intelligent look at race-issues in 70’s USA). In Death Weekend, this theme is even more blatant; rather than depicting physical violence against the folks, the majority of torture concentrates on the menopausal morons smashing up Harry’s material goods. They smash records, stamp on picture-frames, puke all over his carpet, run his speedboat aground and even use a sledgehammer to play golf with the toilet. It’s so mindless yet… so beautiful!

Still, this doesn’t make Death Weekend any more legitimate – in fact, it makes it less so. Director William Fruet (who later made the piss-poor Oliver Reed vehicle Spasms) has managed to create an entirely predictable film here completely devoid of suspense, whose only purpose is effectively to turn graphic sadism into pornography for the pleasure of the slavering viewers. You can feel neither empathy with nor sympathy for any of the characters, feeling no guilt as you watch them suffer and couldn’t care less whether they live or die – as long as you get your money’s worth. Fans of this genre (perverts, in other words) can’t go wrong, despite the fact that Death Weekend doesn’t really stand out from some of its more exhilarating cronies. But those looking for deep chills rather than cheap thrills might be better off looking at a proper horror film rather than this piece of what amounts to nothing more than an amusing exercise in typical 70s misanthropy.

Aka: House by the Lake
Reviewer: Wayne Southworth

 

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William Fruet  (1933 - )

Canadian director of low-budget horror and thrillers. Best known for the 1976 revenge shocker Death Weekend, Search and Destroy, Spasms with Oliver Reed and the voyeuristic thriller Bedroom Eyes. Has mostly worked in TV since the mid-80s, on shows like Friday the 13th and Poltergeist: The Legacy.

 
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