The Film (3.5/5)
The plot in a nutshell: A group of yuppies head out to a country house out in the sticks and run afoul of rednecks and a deranged killer. Man oh man, that was easy. How in the hell did Savage Weekend ever find its way to Blu-ray? Because life is very kind to me, that’s why! This drive-in oddity has so much melodramatic and grindhouse goodness that it just warms my heart. Even though this is obviously a low budget picture, Savage Weekend is given a luscious look by cinematographer Zoltan Vidor, who would bring his soft focus skills to Strange Invaders. The direction is fairly solid by David Paulsen (who would go on to direct episodes of “Dallas” and “Knots Landing”) and an uncredited John Mason Kirby (who would go on to do nothing). This film is driven by the fun performances from the actors. The story is pretty slow but if you have patience, it delivers a little blood and a lot of sleaze.
Before his memorable appearance in Bladerunner, William Sanderson is here as Otis, a disturbed young man (who would get a comedic makeover before becoming Larry on “Newhart”) who spends his days killing rats, slacking on a professional level, and talking to a gravestone. David Gale of Re-Animator is excellent, as always, in the role of Mac Macauley, a rough and possibly very dangerous hillbilly. Before she was the final girl in He Knows You’re Alone, Caitlin O'Heaney was bearing it all for the role of Shirley, the sexpot. Her performance is really fun and sexy; the rampant nudity is very important to the um… story or whatever.
The award for campiest performance in Savage Weekend has to go to Marilyn Hamlin. Not only is her character Marie a total asshole, she is also given some ridiculously self-centered gobbledygook dialog to spout off between dream sequences and supercharged overacting. Her extremely dramatic love triangle between her ex-husband (Jeff Pomerantz), her yutz boyfriend (Jim Doerr), and Mac the redneck stud -I guess that’s a love square- almost makes her my favorite character. That honor goes to Nicky who is played by Christopher Allport, a guy who would work steadily in television until his death in 2008. Nicky is the gay character but he ain’t no lilting stereotype because he will kick your ass! And just to make things even more offbeat, he is violently obsessed with Shirley! Wait, what? Exactly. It’s just this kind of quirk that makes this film so much fun.
The cool Halloween mask that the killer dons while stalking these shitheads inspired so many sequels- oh wait, no it didn’t. Make no mistake, this is a proto-slasher through and through. If this had been filmed after Halloween had already become a huge hit, this would have been a very different movie. Though Savage Weekend was released in 1979, it was actually made in 1976. It’s hard for me to recommend this film to everyone but folks who get a laugh out of “Me Generation” psychodrama clap-trap will have the added bonus of some dreamy cheese and poorly choreographed violence for added bonuses.
While the visuals are strong, a somewhat scratchy 1.78:1 print with vibrant colors and good detail, the audio leaves a lot to be desired. While it doesn’t happen through the entire film, Savage Weekend has very distorted audio in parts. The dialog just gets super tinny and cuts through my speakers like a chainsaw. All is not lost as this is not a deal breaker or anything and I have to emphasize it doesn’t happen throughout the film’s running time.
I was very surprised to find that there were any extras on this disc beyond a trailer. I have to give Kino Lorber some credit for tracking down anyone who even remembers working on this film. In the first of three interviews, William Sanderson has fun reminiscing and not too surprisingly, he’s an odd dude. Caitlin O'Heaney barely remembers being in the movie but she is a good sport about the whole thing. She very amusingly apologizes for her dislike of the horror movie genre. Jeff Pomerantz talks about how he did the movie as a favor to a friend and said that the production was very, very cheap.
While I’m very happy to see Savage Weekend on Blu-ray, I suspect that it will be a love it or hate it affair for film fans. There’s some great slasher-esque imagery and the backwoods characters combined with the bored rich people’s problems makes for a delirious mix. Back when I reviewed the old Mill Creek VHS transfer version of this film, I said “This is exactly what a grindhouse film should be.” I stand by that statement.