Okay, now it's time for my take on the film. I've read so many meaningless reviews that only serve to mislead and miseducate. So, first, here is the basic plot: Seymour Cassel portrays George Manning, a husband and father, living the idyllic family-life. He's got the perfect wife, lovely children and a beautiful home, just on the outskirts of San Francisco, in the (seemingly) peaceful middle of nowhere, to be exact. While his wife and kids have left town for the weekend, he is left all alone on his 40th birthday. This is where it all begins.
On this stormy night, he is greeted by two young women, whom he takes in for shelter while they call a friend and await arrival to be picked up. The girls, Jackson (played by Sondra Locke) and Donna (the delightful Colleen Camp) seem endearing at first, and are more than impressed by the lush surroundings of George's home. They warm up to George, resulting in a somewhat unwelcome sexual episode. This is where most people are wrong... the film does NOT contain "tons of nudity". Yes, there's Sondra showing off what no one wanted to see, and Colleen who gets the "cutaway" every time she disrobes, which is typical as I've never seen her in a nude scene before. She has done a lot of exploitation films, even T & A films, yet offered no T & A, which made me wonder whether or not these reviewers were correct. In fact, the initial sex scene involving the three of them is done in a tasteful manner, with a dizzying series of dissolves, and overall steaminess (not in the sense that it comes off steamy, it just looks like someone left the kettle on too long).
The morning comes and George awakes to the girls who are still at his house. Reality sets in and he realizes he made a bad call. The girls claim that their friend never showed up, which puzzles George. He offers to take them home, but they insist on dancing around the issue. During breakfast, the girls pig-out... big time. George gets irritated by their behaviour and now he wants them out. Through several difficulties, it becomes evident that the girls are no longer "teasing", they are seriously disturbed. Eventually, George finally manages to get them in the car and drives them into San Francisco. He drops them off and heads back home.
As George arrives home, he notices a figure stirring upstairs, only to discover that his journey was all-for-not, as the girls have returned. It is clear that George is now a prisoner in his own home, with no fore-seen conclusion. The girls' bent personalities really begin to shine, as they tie George up and put him through several ongoing tortures, which transcends the remainder of the film into this abyss of nightmarish absurdity.
The film has a very surreal, bad dream-like quality and the tone is nothing short of completely "off-kilter". Very much at home with others of the genre like "THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT" and "HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK", yet not as graphic.
The film's duration, an 87 minute running time, seems un-ending. And, yes it does have one of those "curve-ball wallop" endings, not so much in a good sense, but rather in one of those "time to make a mold" instances.
A few things of note: Cassel's performance is completely dubbed, by someone else, which sort of adds to the atmosphere in an odd way, and what may dictate his true feelings concerning his involvement in the picture. Colleen does have a couple of nude scenes, the "hopping on the bed" sequence and the weird and dreamy "window tapping" scene towards the end of the film. Supposedly, this is all based on a true story, which was a commonly used "hook", especially in the golden days of '70's exploitation fare, and more than likely, is a falsehood. The production designer, Jack Fisk worked on this film along with assistant set dressers, his wife Sissy Spacek and Bill Paxton. And, last but certainly not least, that damned song "Good Old Dad" will drive anyone into a sadistic, maniacal rage. It has to be the WORST song I've ever heard, and that says a lot. Not to mention, that it is played throughout the film, continuously, in long, overdrawn montage sequences that take you to nowhere, and leave you there!
Overall, I had wanted to see this film for years, and after finally viewing it, I must say that it fell short of what I had expected, yet I did not dislike the film. There are plenty of good ingredients to add up to an un-nerving cult classic, but instead we are left with a level of confusion, rather than curiousity. Despite a few shortcomings, the film is worth watching for the performances and atmosphere, and a chance to see Cassel in action while John Cassavetes had his back turned.
A First American Films Release. Distributed by Levitt-Pickman Film Corporation.
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