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Death Weekend

(House by the Lake)
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Screening Times


Director: William Fruet
Screenplay: William Fruet
Cast: Brenda Vaccaro, Don Stroud, Chuck Shamata
Producers: Ivan Reitman
Print Source: Cinémathèque québécoise



“Jesus, that broad can drive. That pisses me off!” Actor Don Stroud is no stranger to psychopath roles, and Willam Fruet’s DEATH WEEKEND gives him one of the meatiest of the bunch as maniacal hick gang leader Lep. When Diane (Brenda Vaccaro of MIDNIGHT COWBOY) runs Lep and his slobbering crew off the road in a high-speed pursuit down an isolated country road, it initiates the most frenzied and brutal tale of retribution produced in cinema’s tax-shelter golden age. Leaving the rural ruffians in the dust, Diane and her companion for the weekend, wealthy dentist Harry, head off to his remote lakeside mansion, where she quickly discovers that she’s sequestered herself with a total creep. Harry’s sleaziness gets compounded by the minute. When she spurns his advances, he threatens to throw her out in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Lep and his goons have discovered their whereabouts and are bent on revenge.

As with other home-invasion/rape-revenge crossover flicks like STRAW DOGS, OPEN SEASON and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, class and gender struggle go hand in hand — it’s the haves versus the have-nots. But DEATH WEEKEND stands apart from its brutes-versus-borgeois brethren in its characterization of the upper class as equally suspect. As the home invasion degenerates into a jaw-dropping flurry of destruction and personal violation, one suspects the protagonists’ privilege is what the antagonists really find so offensive. But trapped in this convergence of raging testosterone, Diane refuses to fit the stereotype the men have molded for her. It takes a hell of a woman to go up against a lumbering menace like Don Stroud, and Vaccaro delivers on all counts.

Although writer/director William Fruet would go on to become a staple of the Canadian horror boom with FUNERAL HOME and SPASMS, at the time he was best known for penning Don Shebib’s 1970 CanCon classic GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD. DEATH WEEKEND was inspired by an incident in rural Alberta in which Fruet was nearly run off the road by a carload of carousing rednecks, and that undoubtedly fueled the film’s palpable sense of danger (as did the many injuries sustained on set!). Almost unanimously scorned by Canadian critics upon release, DEATH WEEKEND nonetheless won the Critic’s Award and Best Screenplay Award at the Sitges Festival, which recognized its deranged, balls-out genius. Still unavailable on DVD, this is your chance to see it as it was meant to be seen.

—Kier-La Janisse

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