The House by the Lake (1976)
User ReviewsReview this title
A well acted and directed thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Not as violent as other similar titles such as 'Last House on the Left', 'Fight for your Life', and 'Late Night Trains' but far more exciting.
A film well worthy of a re-release.
The violence is initially against Harry's property which he values more than anything else. Even though Diane has spurned him one gets the impression that he considers her his property too. Her resilience against the grotesque mob of ugly greasers is exhilarating to watch and is comparable to the revenge actions that take place in the later "I Spit On Your Grave".
The film's closing images are unnerving, keeping in tone with the somewhat excessive terror factor of the second half.
Stroud and Vaccaro are excellent.
Death Weekend is a misleading film, in the sense that any fan of exploitation will probably feel short changed, as in regards to content, it's pretty tame indeed.
A film more interested in character exploration, it also takes its time to build to its effective and tense climax.
I went into Death Weekend expecting a nasty exploitative shocker but what I got was a solid enough well made film in its own right.
A recommended film for those seeking something just a little bit more offbeat, but again, exploitation fans should be aware that this will not be what they're expecting, and some may be underwhelmed by its slow burning style and tame content. I quite liked it overall though, and found its climax fairly gripping. A solid enough revenge film overall, and worth checking out.
In route to their weekend get away, a woman and her gentleman friend anger a gang of thugs and end up paying for it.
Death Weekend is a little known thriller, which is a shame since it's a good entry in the vengeance/exploitation genre. While Death Weekend isn't as violent or disturbing as Last House on the Left (1972) or I Spit on Your Grave (1978), it does possess a powerful tension and makes for a pretty strong watch. Director William Fruet gives this film tight action and dark, suspenseful atmosphere. It does have the occasional burst of shocking violence - especially during the terrifically intense climax.
The films two stars are a strong point as well. Brenda Vaccaro is great as a victim trying to survive. She is an excellent actress and shows it well in this film. Also excellent is villain Don Stroud. Stroud has a powerful kind of presence in this film as the ruthless, but not unattractive leader of the gang.
Death Weekend is a nicely edgy shocker that deserves a wider audience. For thriller, exploitation fans it's worth finding!
*** out of ****
Violence and rape ensues as the hillbilly gang seek revenge. In the course of events Harry is actually killed and Diane is raped when trying to escape. But then Diane turns the tables single-handedly and in brutal fashion.
They are elements of both Last House on the Left and Straw Dogs within this film's premise (in the UK, this film played as part of a double bill with the latter film) but theres also enough to distinguish Death Weekend from these two films. Theres a strong feeling of the 'haves vs have nots' thats interesting. The hillbilly gang see what they don't have within the house and their lives and instinctively seek to destroy and tarnish it.
Also, this isn't a case of the good vs the bad- when Diane arrives at the house by the lake she very quickly realises that Harry is a slimeball personified. Hes a swinger who has invited Diane to the house for one reason and that isn't holding hands and going for long walks. We see him taking pictures of Diane as she gets undressed and showers as the mirrors in the swingers paradise masquerading as a country house are all two-way. Diane finds out this later when one of the gang stumbles upon the pictures that the pervert Harry has taken unbeknownst to her.
Also, just before the gang invades the house Diane is just about to leave as she learns that although Harry had told her that there were other guests who would be joining them, in fact this was a lie. Harry appears to be just as repellent as the gang members who are just about to kick the door in- its just his social class that separates him from them.
This film is also made noteworthy by the cast with Brenda Vacarro and Don Stroud deserving special mention.
A very good film that deserves a really good Blu ray release. In fact, this would be ideal for Scream Factory.
The film opens with a very spectacular car chase where the thugs are harassing the dentist and his model companion who is at the wheel. Pretty soon I was saying to myself "come on.... no other cars use this road?" and then CRASH. Finally the scene ends with the thugs landing in a ditch as the dentist and model drive off, having completely disgraced them, setting off a desperate need for revenge in the thug leader. The film had delivered a very convincing opening act, and from this point I had the sense that this director knew what he was doing.
It' the little things that are all at play which end up making the film much more convincing than lesser efforts. For example, when the leader opens up pretending to be nice and reasonable with the dentist in a very sardonic way, and his 3 comrades are snickering at it, as characters they all seem so believable, and this scene really does get across a foreboding sense of bad things to come, as we have already been shown just how fierce the leader can be.
One scene that I found to be a huge detractor was where the drunken gas store workers were killed by the thugs with the dentists boat. Firstly it was very coincidental that they borrowed the dentist's boat at this propitious moment, but more importantly, the way that they taunted and tormented the dentist and model, and the way tension grew and grew was so successful, that it seemed very much like a situation of bad luck, and one thing leading to another, though when we see them so callously murder these 2 people on the boat, it destroys much of that very well produced tension, because it means they were going to kill the dentist and model from the very beginning and the fate was sealed.
The unfolding chain of death at the end was again, much better executed than in most movies of this type, though still as usual, a little contrived that the shed trap would work so perfectly, that the 2nd last thug would stumble into quicksand and die, while the model avoided the same fate. One thing that I think certainly could have been better handled was the transition from night to day. I would have loved to see shots of the sun rising, of the model shivering in the night, waiting for morning. Regardless, the final showdown between the model and the leader is quite intense, and I love the added irony that the wounded dentist ran off to the car the night earlier after being shot, but died in the car, as he had no car keys, though luckily for the model she learned how to hot-wire cars.
The ending shot of the movie can only be described as extremely bizarre, and its so very perverted in the a sado-masochistic sense of what it implies. In terms of drama and meaning, as with the rest of the film, it really does not delve beyond the mere surface, but it does serve as a final jolt to the viewer saying: Not a masterpiece, but this movie definitely has enough thought and effort put into it to place it above average sleazy schlock like "Last House On The Left" or "I Spit On Your Grave"
Don Stroud , a Favourite actor of mine has one of his finest hours on film as the leader of the thugs named "Lep". He is really Mean and Violent towards anyone , even his own gang and plays his character with lots of Coolness and Menace. To me , he is a Very bad person but he also shows us in a rare scene or two that he has some feeling towards the fashion model and his behaviour towards her is maybe not purely for the purpose of committing rape.While they are alone in the garden shed after she tries to escape , He stops trying to Rape her after she stops resisting him with her fists and arms , he stops the rape.Then he gently tries to touch her face and kiss her as they are both standing up. She rejects him with a slap in the face and then he hits her but its an interesting scene.A few images of This scene is also cut to at the end of the film after she kills "Lep" by running over him with a car. There is a quick shot of Lep smiling at her in the grassy field and then another cut to the kiss he tried to give her in the shed after she stopped fighting with him. I felt the Director was trying to say something about Lep's character and that he was not entirely all bad as a person. Maybe just a bit lonely and in need of good woman that he wanted to love. Maybe he didn't have to die. The Film has plenty of good scenes. I really liked watching the 4 thugs drink all the alcohol in the house and run amok. They get drunk ,Throw Beer on each other and all around the place ,Act Stupid , Make a Mess ,Vomit , fart and make total idiots of themselves as they totally intimidate and show no respect for the dentist's house.Lep questions the dentist's vast materialism with his house and possessions and labels it all crap. This is funny and it builds to a very dramatic scene where Stroud and his men no longer show any restraint and totally go crazy and start trashing the whole house and furniture to bits. They smash and destroy everything they can yelling , screaming and laughing. Its very funny to see these four morons totally lose it and shows they enjoy acting crazy.
My Girlfriend watched this film with me and had a real hate for Don Stroud's Lep Character and the 3 other men in his gang. She couldn't wait to see them get killed by the Fashion model. They play very evil, sleazy men and act like filthy animals. The Director really portrayed the thugs as very low class human beings. Actually some of the worst thugs i've seen on film ever. Their behaviour is so low life.
Death Weekend is a real 70s Classic. A great Well Paced Thriller with some good Performances. The film is sleazy with its characters but there is no graphic nudity or rape scenes. Overall Well Directed.
Stroud and Brenda Vaccaro are Great and Carry this film....
Diane (Brenda Vaccaro) and Harry (Chuck Shamata) are on their way to a remote house. Harry is a self-obsessed and successful dentist who owns the house. He spends most of his time buying objects to gratify his wealth, without realising their true value. Diane is his latest conquest (she doesn't know it, but she's just one in a long line of weekend flings for Harry). En route to the house the couple are subjected to a scary road rage ordeal at the hands of four drunken hoodlums, led by the foul-mouthed, foul-minded Lep (Don Stroud). Diane successfully out-drives the unpleasant foursome and causes them to crash. However, Lep tracks them down to their secluded love nest and, aided by his cronies, subjects them to an even more degrading and sadistic ordeal.
Vaccaro is far too good an actress for a sleazy, violent exploitation flick such as this. She gives a good performance, as you would expect, but it's wasted on the repellent material. Stroud also registers strongly as a deplorable villain, and Shamata is OK as the vain, heartless playboy. For gorehounds there are some worthwhile moments - the highlight being a chilling throat slashing scene - but it's a long wait until the nasty stuff gets underway. Death Weekend is essentially an intentionally mean-spirited thriller. It offers the lingering threat of rape as a form of entertainment, and asks us to enjoy scenes of drunken abuse, degradation, destruction, idiocy, and graphic murder. Ultimately, the unpleasantness becomes a turn-off. The thoughtfulness of Straw Dogs and the black humour of Death Wish is nowhere to be found. This is just unpleasantness for its own sake.... and that's just NOT what movies are all about.
This Canadian production was written & directed William Fruet & is a decent piece of sleaze although while I liked it I didn't love it. The script is your basic backwoods brutality exploitation film where some city folk are given a harsh lesson by some inbred retards. Interestingly Death Weekend paints all of it's male leads as scum, even Harry who likes to take nude photo's of his female guests from behind a two way mirror in their bathroom. This actually doesn't lead anywhere & nothing significant is made of it but I found it quite an odd subplot. On the exploitation front this is actually quite tame, there are two attempted rapes unless a rape can be committed while both parties remain fully clothed & it seems to want to spend more time on Lep & his mate's wrecking Harry's expensive house. The character's are OK but I didn't think Lep & his gang came across as anything more than one dimensional pantomime villains, Harry tried to bribe his way out of trouble rather than do anything proactive, Diane as expected suddenly turns into a female commando who takes four big guys down by herself & I could have done without the two drunk comedy relief gas station attendants. Having said that it moves along at a nice pace, when it's good it's good & overall it's quite an effective piece of 'savage cinema'.
Director Fruet does a good job, the opening car chase scenes are pretty cool although he does tend to chicken out when Death Weekend threatens to get really nasty. There's a great 70's sleazy atmosphere to it which is priceless. I wasn't sure about the ending either as it just sort of finishes abruptly. There's not much gore, there's a cool slit throat & some blood splatter but nothing else.
Technically this is well made & has good production values, the location is nice enough & has decent cinematography. The tag line to Death Weekeend on it's theatrical artwork was 'It Began with a Rape. It Ended with a Massacre!' which I think is a bit misleading as it should more accurately have said 'It Began with a Road Rage Incident. It Ended with a Massacre!', then again that doesn't quite have the same ring about it. The acting is good from all involved.
Death Weekend may not be the best revenge flick ever but it's still a fine piece of Canadian sleaze that's worth a watch, you know they just don't make them like this anymore... shame really...
I wish I had an actual DVD copy of this film, but it doesn't exist, why this is I do not know. The film gives us an insight of so much rage in a woman after she gets raped, but also is with a dentist than is a cocky jerk in the beginning.
Death Weekend aka House By The Lake is a great film and stands up beside Last House on the Left, and I Spit On Your Grave. I truly don't know why this film has such controversy behind it since all the films I mentioned have been released on DVD. I'm guessing because it's a Canadian rape revenge film that stand above the rest of this sort of genre. What ever the reason I recommend watching this film if you have the means to do so.
This movie is really about a strong woman pitting her wits against five guys. yes, five guys: her new boyfriend, harry, if you can even call him that, is a pathetic loser who cares for nothing but his property and money. To my mind he was the most despicable guy in the film, moreso than the hooligans who come after the unhappy couple. His motives are totally trashy and he comes across as a nasty bullshitter. Just hateful. The four home-invaders are ignorant and aggressive, but are by contrast, a bit relatable in a way, and I almost forgot what scum they were for a moment as I laughed and cheered them on as they wrecked the house and totally went to town smashing everything in sight, pouring beer everywhere and just seemingly having the time of their lives. Honestly, that was probably a selling point for the young actors in this movie. Their leader, though, is a bit of a calculating sort, and I did think the hint of Stockholm syndrome at the endd was a little misplaced. Then again, the movie is ambiguous enough about it that it shouldn't really piss anyone off, and there's after all no doubt that the guy is dead -- it was just a strange final scene to close on, as she remembers this guy and what he did and, seemingly, has a hint of regret about killing him.
The deaths though are generally well done and appropriate. Diane really kicks arse and the actor put in a great performance. She's a very tough female protagonist in a 70s movie and that's just a joy to see. Even the comic relief drunk guy was on point. This film did a great job with its cast of characters in a style that's perhaps not too recognised for such things. This is a great edition to the small but notable Canadian exploitation/horror canon and a bit of an unsung classic in the genre.
Tracking them to their weekend retreat, the gang terrorise the couple before finally killing Harry and raping Brenda. However, the feisty model eventually gets her revenge; she manages to escape from the house and proceeds to bump off her tormentors one-by-one.
Death Weekend, a violent rape/revenge thriller in the same vein as the infamous The Last House on the Left, contains all of the ingredients one might expect from such a filma pretty protagonist, a gang of thoroughly vile bad guys, and violent retributionbut, thanks to particularly poor pacing and not enough in the way of graphic nastiness, winds up being less effective than many a movie from the same genre.
My main gripe with Death Weekend is that it takes ages to get going (an hour passes before the gang begin to kill and rape); whilst this admittedly gives us plenty of time to get to really hate Lep and Co. (a nasty bunch made all the more repulsive thanks to the way that they continually delight in mocking their victims with high pitched laughter), it doesn't leave enough time for a truly satisfying finalé.
Not only does Brenda dispatch all of the thugs in very quick succession, but she also does so in a fairly bloodless manner. Being a gore-hound, I wanted her to get real nasty, but instead of buckets of gore, we get a tame throat slashing, an immolation, a drowning, and death by car.
Death Weekend will definitely be of interest to fans of gritty, 'grindhouse' cinema, but I certainly wouldn't class it as essential viewing.
The film was given the alternative title 'The House by the Lake' in an obvious attempt to cash in on Last House on the Left, and although the two are undoubtedly similar, this film plays out along different lines. Craven's film focused on ultra-violence, whereas this one manages a social commentary along the same lines as Dawn of the Dead and pokes fun at consumerism, as the playboy at the centre fears more for his house and material possessions than his own life and that of his companion. It's obvious that director William Fruet was restrained by his budget, but he still manages to implement a great atmosphere, which is more chaotic than many of the film's genre counterparts. This sort of film is obviously put on the back foot from the beginning as many will merely pass it off as another rip-off; but while the film may not be as nasty as some others, Death Weekend still succeeds at doing what it set out to do; namely, delivering a raw film with gratuitous nastiness and violence. The acting isn't up to much, although everyone does an adequate job of portraying their characters, and while this might not be a 'great' genre film; it's certainly a very good one.
The Comcast version is slightly different than the Vestron Video version available on VHS in the United States. First, the American International logo is missing at the beginning, and is replaced by "A Cinepix Video Presentation." More significantly, the climactic throat-slashing scene is more explicit than in the Vestron Video release. Here, we see a longer shot of Diane wielding the piece of glass; two lingering shots of Runt's slashed throat, including Runt grasping his throat as blood spurts through his fingers; and Diane being splattered with blood. All of these shots are missing from the Vestron version.
Vicious, joyless, witless and pointless, it is one long contrivance of outrage, a uni-dimensional affair which having discovered the Newtonian principle of the greater the action, the greater the reaction, proceeds to exploit it with tedious predictability.
There are no insights into the human condition, though a great many into the minds of those responsible. Stroud, who until this dross had the potential to be a cinema headliner, must look back now and wonder if his career wasn't buried along with so much else at The House by the Lake. As for Fruett, consignment to the world of TV episodes seems charitable.
See it and be demeaned.