The Video Nasties #39 – Death Weekend (1976, William Fruet)

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‘You goddam fucking cunt!’

If you’ve ever wanted to show someone Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave but were too afraid that they would think you were a perverted sicko, then why not show them Death Weekend, the tasteful Canadian version? Quite honestly, you could do a lot worse.

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It begins with rich dentist Harry taking fashion model Diane to his secluded mansion getaway. How do I know Harry is rich? Because he never shuts up about it. His pick up lines are seriously on point – ‘I make about $25,000 a year more than your average doctor,’ he gloats and instantly I hate him. Diane, on the other hand, is one of the most clever and resourceful heroines in all of 1970s horror, outracing a bunch of thugs, fixing a boat and a car engine, and simply taking no shit from anyone.

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The early scene of Diane racing the gang of yahoos is well directed and exciting and features some wonderfully polite Canadian thugs, one of whom exclaims, ‘Oh dear’ when the two cars violently collide. After she runs them off the road, they arrive at Harry’s palatial abode, which is fitted out with all the latest in creep home designs, such as two-way mirrors in the bedrooms, where Harry hides and takes photos of his guests. He’s a hard character to warm to, to be honest, and it’s not helped by the fact he seems to be a bizarre cross between David Hess and Alan Alda.

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Soon the thugs gatecrash the house and begin to terrorise Harry and Diane. Rather than the usual route of extended rape sequences though, the violence inflicted for the most part is psychological. The thugs realise that Harry doesn’t care what happens to him or Diane, just as long as they don’t damage his expensive possessions, such as the piano that he earlier admitted he can’t play. The gang start to smash up Harry’s stuff, and the anti-consumerist in me started to really get behind the gang. Come on – pervert dentist versus anti-consumerist vigilantes? Who are you gonna side with? Plus, who amongst us wouldn’t want to go nuts in a big house with a sledgehammer? In this respect, Death Weekend would actually make an interesting double bill with the thematically similar Dawn of the Dead, which we’ll be covering soon.

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Eventually, Harry is shot dead and the gang turn their attentions to Diane, who has proven herself to have a lot more gumption than the spineless Harry. She is taken upstairs to be raped, but she slits her attackers throat and escapes out the window, leading to a great moment where the dying man’s gurgles and cries for help are mistaken for passionate lovemaking by his cronies who are listening at the door.

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Death Weekend deserves to be better known. Badly in need of a Blu-Ray remaster, it’s a nice variation on the rape revenge film by some reliable Canadian talent, including the producing team that gave the world the first few Cronenberg movies. Surprisingly tame in terms of sex and violence, it was probably a Nasty due to it’s apparent similarities with other, more brutal films, particularly when it’s known by its more exploitive title The House by the Lake.

Now, where did they get the idea for that one?

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