Savage Weekend (1976)
WRITER: David Paulsen
DIRECTOR: David Paulsen
STARRING: Christopher Allport as Nicky
James Doerr as Robert Fathwood
David Gale as Mac Macauley
Devin Goldenberg as Jay Alsop
Marilyn Hamlin as Marie Sales Petis
Kathleen Heaney as Shirley Sales
Jeffrey David Pomerantz as Greg Petis
Willian Sanderson as Otis
QUICK CUT: A group of people head off on a vacation weekend in the woods for no particularly good reason, other than getting them isolated and killable.
Nicky - Nicky's main defining trait is that he's gay. I think. Let's roll with that. And he is quite gay. Very flamboyant.
Robert - It's his house in the country, his boat, his girlfriend being stalked. You would think he's the star. The plot arguably revolves around him. Yet Nicky steals the show.
Mac - The local lumber man who works around the farm, and the victim of some random Irish racism that came outta nowhere.
Marie and Shirley - Two sisters, Marie is married to Robert after divorcing her first husband. The pair of them get it on with whatever guy happens to be on screen at the time. Shirley almost does it with Nicky, even!
Otis - The local country bumpkin that's a hired hand around the farm. He has a disturbing past which involved branding his cousin. He spends his time talking to tombstones when he's not doing that.
THE GUTS: Hello and welcome to a little something I am calling "Thanksgiving Leftovers!" Translation: the movie I wanted to review for the end of the month has not arrived yet, so I spent the last few days yelling, "Fuck fuck fuck" and scrambling through 50-packs of movies until something felt right. Boy, I am thankful right now for those piles of cheap movies right now, let me tell you.
And our innagural Thanksgiving Leftover movie is Savage Weekend, starring the sherrif from the Jack Frost movies. So there's that, at least.
The credits roll over a woman running through the woods, being slowly followed by a guy in sore need of a haircut, shave, and clothes. The dueling banjos get interupted by the sound of a chainsaw, which we soon see has just been abandoned by the trees. Since we're starting out so early with utter lack of logic, I am not even going to question why it's there, who started it, or anything. And begin praying this makes sense some day.
The rumpled guy comes by though, likes the find and scoops it up, seeing he can put it to good use on the lady who's just standing there as he casually strolls up to her. Um, run?
Sadly, before he can use the chainsaw, we jump to the big city, and people whining that Greg isn't around. Oh, how I hope that was Greg in the woods. But no, he's just this little kid's father, picking him up so everyone else can go have a...SAVAGE WEEKEND.
With the kid out of the way, everyone piles into a car and drives off, and oh look, they stop at the gas station in every horror movie in the woods. I hope they meet the Harbinger...
Nicky heads off to the bar across the street while everyone stocks up on supplies. He acts...very swishy, to put it mildly. The natives don't know what to make of him, and neither do I.
Unsurprisingly, some of the locals take offense to Nicky, and try to start something. Before they can do that though, Nicky starts it instead, and we have your typical bar fight.
That was...pointless, but kinda fun. Even if the fight was poorly done. The choreography left much to be desired, and it didn't really serve much purpose, except to show Nicky is gay and can handle himself in a fight. Yet it is hard to argue with a silly bar fight.
When they arrive at their destination, they find a bat has been nailed to the door. I guess they have strange customs here, these forest folk.
And that's when William Sanderson walks into the story. You might remember him from Newhart, or Blade Runner. He's a well known character actor. Yeah, one of those 'that guy!' type actors. He's walking into this movie to hang out in the graveyard and talk to ghosts. And they spend way too much time with him, since most of what he says is unintelligible.
The movie suddenly jumps from Otis in the graveyard to Otis watching three of the vacationers in a boat. Whoa whoa, slow your roll, movie. Too many plots to juggle here with no transitions.
The highlight here is that Mac is just randomly babbling about how people can go mad up in these woods all alone. Dude, the only one sound mad right now is YOU, Mister Randomly McBabblepants.
The whiplash continues when we jump back to other characters waking up the next day, after the bat removal. Typical stuff really. Establishing the setting, more than anything else.
We go back to the boat people, and we learn a bit more about Otis, who went a little mad when some guy was pawing his cousin. He defended her honour, apparently with a laser powered stick, by the sound effects that start up when he hits people with it.
After saving her and beating the guy's head in, Otis drags his cousin off to the barn, ties her up, and proceeds to brand her with an iron. He leaves her with a big, burnt H on her chest. For whore. Yes, yes, I know. Otis isn't that bright. Nice touch on actually showing it all.
It seems here that they're going with a Friday the 13th 'sex will kill you' type message, but the movie ends up not going that route. It's a good swerve as the movie goes on.
The movie then provides some artificial tension and squirming when Robert steps on a hook that accidentally gets yanked and digs into his flesh. We then spend entirely too much time watching him dig it out with a giant knife. I will be over here watching uncomfortably until this part is over.
One of the naked women gets interrupted in her sunbathing when Jay comes up, takes his clothes off, and has sex with her before walking off. There's a Johnny Appleseed joke here, I'm sure. Anyways, this all happens while Nicky watches and gets turned on.
Once the swimming and random sex are done with, everyone gets their clothes on, and heads down to the barn where Robert's boat is being repaired and built. And when they get there, Otis greets them all with a shotgun.
But it's okay, it's just there for taking care of the rats. Since that's all Otis seems to have been doing though, Robert has brought Jay along to help and do actual work on the boat. Otis is none too pleased to have his work questioned.
Otis fortunately has people he can talk to. Unfortunately they're all dead. He heads back to the cemetery to rant about his recent demotion.
After we see Marie fantasising about her ex while making love to Robert, we see her heading out to chat with Mac. She starts flirting with him too, and...oh don't let Otis know, okay?
The movie continues to talk about the boat, and I am starting to get just a little bored. Fortunatley, someone is lurking around the house using Michael Meyers' point of view cam so we can't see who it is. It is doing just enough to keep me interested, but that goodwill is drying up fast. Some good character work, and a slow burn is nice, but they are just starting to push the limits of pacing here.
While the mysterious stranger goes around the house stealing a creepy mask they bought as a joke, gloves, and sweater, Marie heads back into the woods to find Mac. Once she does, she tells him she needs eggs. Damnit, you city folk. There are these things called 'stores' where you exchange money for goods and services. You don't get stuff by finding some guy in the woods and asking for it!
It is interesting to see a killer piece together his costume, though. And at least we get to see how the chainsaw ended up where it did at the start of the movie.
And Marie then proceeds to head out to a barn, and start fondling a cow's udders. In Kaufman's name, is she really THAT hard up, that horny? This woman needs help.
Damnit movie! No! No, you do not make fondling udders, milking a cow, and having a drink into something sexual! Don't you dare go ruining milk for me!!
After tearing off her shirt, Marie and Mac make out some more, and that's when her ex-husband shows up to replace Mac in her fantasies. Why did she leave him, again? And thank you movie, for the added bonus of the 70s porn soundtrack. That brightened my mood.
But after spending all the movie flirting with Mac, now that he's finally giving in, Marie bops him on the head and says no, running off to another plotline.
Back at the ranch, things aren't going too well with Jay and Shirley, and Nicky's making something to eat. He grabs a frying pan off the wall, and the head and handle become disconnected. Uhh...was that supposed to happen? Is that a blooper they left in? What the hell?
After the argument, Jay wanders around to the barn to check on the boat. Once he steps inside, the dude in the creepy mask jumps out and strangles him, and hangs him from the rafters. Now we're talkin'. Although I disapprove of the first death being named Jay.
While the ladies start getting ready for a party they plan to throw that night, Robert finally notices Jay has gone missing and looks for him around the barn.
The killer waits for him in the barn, but he never quite makes it in. I imagine the killer is just sitting there, all sad and pouty... Mac shows up, wanting to borrow the car to get home, and he hasn't seen Jay either. Funny, he's just hanging around.
While Rob and Marie head outside for a walk after dinner, Whosit decides to start stripping for Nicky, and uh, maybe he's not gay. Just flamboyant. Because he sure does seem interested. Well, then there's a random flash to two seconds of him getting his makeup done. I just don't know anymore.
I love that the movie keeps cutting back to the killer in the barn, looking longingly out the window, forlorn that no one is coming to die. See, there is just no initiaitve these days.
The killer finally does decide to do something, and heads into the house. He grabs a needle from something people have been playing with all movie long, stalks Nicky briefly through the house, and jabs it right into his ear. And wasn't very stealthy about it. Especially since Nicky was in front of a mirror.
Shirley completely misses Nicky's scream, and continues dancing around in her underwear, since hey. The movie doesn't have enough titilation, I guess? She sees the killer, and just assumes it's Nicky in the weird mask they bought him. But that assumption doesn't last long. Shame they don't show us WHY she stops thinking it's Nicky.
In the barn, Robert heads inside to look for Jay, and guess what! He finds him!
The killer chases Shirley down to the basement, and that should at least be fun for some murderous creativity. And I am not disappointed! He overpowers her, pushes her down against a table saw, and ties her down with barbed wire foir bonus points. Oh sweet.
He even gets creative and plugs it into the basement light, so someone else will flick the lights on and do the dirty work for him. It's a bit convoluted, the steps they go through to get someone to turn on the basement lights, but it is worth it for the results!
While he tries to do that, he hooks Robert in the chest, and flings him out the window, so that doesn't help him any. So, the girl waits a little longer while the killer heads back inside to check out Marie.
He casually takes a seat and pulls off the mask revealing...HER EX GREG! Okay. That's a nice swerve. I figured it could not have been Otis, since it was so set up that way from the opening shot. But I was never quite sure who it was, until a number of bodies started falling. It's not a great reveal, but handled well.
I especially love how it's revealed. There's a bright light in front of him, with us behind, he pulls off the mask and we see the back of his hair. He turns, and we only find out it's Greg when his profile enters the light. That's...a well done shot, in all honesty.
Greg explains, poorly, that he's gone a wee bit mad since his whole stock career went up in smoke, and he misses the power. So uh, that plus the divorce made him a crazed killer. Well, there's worse motivations out there, I guess.
Mac shows up with the car the next morning, after dropping off his daughter, Sara Pezinni home. Meanwhile, Greg is setting the boat on fire. Oh, and Marie isn't totally stupid, so uses the chance she's left alone to run away.
Greg chases Marie all around the woods, while Mac investigates the murder house. Poor Shirley is still tied up down in the basement, and even though she's still alive, she has a saw blade jabbed into her back. That can't be pleasant, even stationary.
The movie teases us as Mac fiddles with the basement switches, until he flicks the one that she's tied into. And then the lightbulb starts shooting pew pew laser guns. What is up with the sound effects in this movie?
We don't actually see what happens, and instead cut to the ongoing pursuit in the woods. Mac hears Marie scream and chases after them, and the movie finally loops back around to eat its own credits, when we see everyone running around the woods, and Otis turns up.
Points for the fight between the two guys actually going for the very dirty route. Mac gets kicked in the balls, he throws dirt in Greg's face. I like this kinda thing. And we even get to see the chainsaw being started up by Mac! He doesn't hold it long, but holy shit continuity and explanation.
Greg tries to slice Mac up with a machete, but that's when Otis walks into the clearing, picks up the chainsaw, and they do some creative editing to show us one of those classic 'what really happened' sort of scenes. It doesn't play entirely fair, and showing us such a loaded scene at the start didn't help any, but it's cleverly done, especially for the 70s.
So the movie wraps up with Mac and Marie riding off into the sunset, and Otis heading back to the cemetary with a few new stories to tell the ghosts in the graveyard.
Video: It's not great. It's from a VHS copy, it's got some weird widescreen shots in the middle of the movie that make no sense. It's very grainy and spotty at times, but it's well shot, and there's never a moment where you go, what's going on? because you can't see shit.
Audio: Also fine, most of the problems there come from mumbly actors, not actual audio difficulties. But it does get very crackly at times, and that's troublesome. Not enough to ruin the sound, but it is there and distracting.
Sound Bite: "Well, would YOU move if someone put a nail through you?" Nicky about the bat.
1 - 51 minutes in, Jay, strangled and hung.
2 - Nicky, needle to the brain.
3 - Robert, hooked and defenestrated.
4 - Shirley? Maybe? Sliced in the back by the table saw.
5 - Greg, chainsawed in the back by Otis. So there's symmetry at least.
Best Corpse: Oh, if they showed ANY of it, Shirley. Easy. But sadly, I have to give it to Nicky. Allport steals so much of this movie, and his tortured, twitching death scene is no exception.
Blood Type - F: The movie is pretty bloodless, which is a shame, with all those bodies.
Sex Appeal: I think the two sisters in the movie spend more time out of their clothes than in them.
Movie Review: This is...surprising. It actually sets up a mystery, has some weird bits in it, and actually manages to explain them. It's not a terrible story. It's well made for the time. Aside from Nicky though, the characters are rather bland, even with all the time we spend with them. I never really care much about anyone. It's not terrible by any means, but it's mediocre and cheesy with its trappings. Three out of five needles to the brain.
Entertainment Value: I actually found myself enjoying this movie. If the first half was trimmed up a bit to get a bit quicker to the body count, it might be even better. But it does take its time, mixed in with just interesting enough bits though. Nicky steals the show, like I've said. You can make a drinking game out of the sisters stripping or having sex. And once the killing swings into high gear, there is a lot of fun as Greg literally tears through the cast, wasting no time. I also really like how this is almost an adult version of the 'kids go to the woods and get killed' trope. This is adults go off to their country home, have fancy dress dinners, work on their boat...and get killed. A nice inversion. Mixed in with some genuine curveballs, this was a random movie I grabbed from the pile that really hit the spot for the holidays. Four out of five saw blades in the back.