Death Weekend (1976)

Genres - Thriller  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - Canada , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Despite its exploitation film premise and lurid title, Death Weekend isn't the shock machine one might expect - in fact, it is a surprisingly intelligent affair. Unfortunately, the film tries to have it both ways by mixing serious drama and gritty thrills and as a result it doesn't satisfy either one of the audiences it is trying to court. Writer/director William Fruet's desire to make this a serious film undermines the very elements that would make it compelling: he overloads the story with self-conscious messages about machismo and class differences that work against the film's plot instead of allowing these messages to work as thematic shadings that support the plot. At the same time, long stretches of screen time are devoted to the tribulations that the villains put the protagonists through and their improvisational quality lacks the tension necessary to make these moments suspenseful. As a result, the pacing lacks the consistency needed to allow the drama to build and the moments that should be gut-wrenching lack any kind of spark. Despite these problems, Death Weekend benefits from skillful cinematography by Robert Saad and earnest performances from its leads: Brenda Vaccaro brings plenty of strength to her role as the resourceful heroine and Don Stroud's believably creepy performance as the frustrated 'angry young man' protagonist gives the role an intelligence that many actors might overlook. However, these well-realized elements can't overcome the film's rather confused nature and Death Weekend can only be termed an interesting misfire.