Thursday, 27 March 2014

Savage Weekend (1979)



Though filmed in 1976, this film proved unable to get a distribution deal until 1979. What changed that it finally got released? I think the answer to that is 'Halloween came out'. John Carpenter's massively successfully film ($70 million ticket sales on a budget of under half a million) launched the slasher genre, and Savage Weekend, though it doesn't hit all the tropes of that sub-genre, is most definitely a slasher movie, and like Halloween, it features a masked killer.

We've got what became the standard slasher premise here: a group of friends in an isolated location carry on with boozing, sex, and other shenanigans, until some whackjob turns up to kill them all. Unlike most slashers, however, the group of friends in this film are adults, rather than teenagers. Two of them are stockbrokers, even. Maybe that was the reason this didn't get a release to begin with: successful studio execs were happy seeing snotty teens get waxed, but not white collar types!

OK, probably not, but it is something a bit out of the ordinary for this sort of thing.

So it's a slasher movie, and you probably know more or less how those go. This one takes a lot longer to get to the killing than most (about 50 minutes), and keeps the overall body count relatively low. None of the 'a kill every four minutes' tempo of mid-80s slashers. It leavens that long opening with plenty of relationship drama and a fair bit of nudity. The latter is more successful than the former, as the female members of the cast have definitely been chosen more for their looks and willingness to disrobe than their acting ability. Not that the men are much better. Well, except William Sanderson (E.B. Farnum from Deadwood) who as usual is solid. Certainly far more solid than some of the photography: there's a scene at one point of the film where the boom mic is clearly in shot for a full minute or so.

So in a technical sense it is a weak film, but Sanderson's performance is good (and he has a fairly central role in the film), and it's definitely an interesting view of the various iterations of the slasher formula that were tried before Halloween really set the mould.

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