Thursday, March 27, 2008

Death Weekend (a.k.a. The House by the Lake)

Well, as rape-revenge pictures go, this one has two things going for it: it at least managed to wait until the end of the film before it goes all the way into morally reprehensible territory, and unlike I Spit on Your Grave the filmmaking technique is fairly passable. That being said, this is a genre that relishes extremism more than filmmaking, so there’s two ways that one really has to judge this by.

On the filmmaking side, at least, the movie works better than most of what I’ve seen from the genre. The film follows a man and a girl he’s trying to get with as they go to spend a weekend at a lakehouse together, and run afoul of a gang of misfits that go on to torment and torture them both. This is done in a fairly unusual manner, for while most films like this portray the victims as young and innocent, here the man is a complete sleaze, caring only for his possessions, and lying to the girl and telling her there was going to be a big party at the lakehouse to get her down there. It does, however, make sure to include the required “villain that’s not really as bad as the others, except when he is” that we feel the need to have in every one of these films. I don’t know what that’s about. A) Why do we need to have one villains that we can half sympathize with, and B) how sympathetic is he expected to be when he goes around beating the girl, tearing apart the house, assaulting a cop, and cheerfully joining in in the killing of two old men who show up solely to provide early victims to keep the film moving along faster?

Still, the film is surprisingly restrained for the genre. The rape in question doesn’t occur until the final third of the film, is short, features no nudity, and ends badly for the rapist. Indeed, it’s so oddly filmed that it may well have not been a rape at all, but rather just the guy dry humping her with all their clothes on and nutting just from that. Hardly the sleaze you would expect from a genre that includes such “delights” as Night Train Murders and House on the Edge of the Park. As such this curiously manages to be both a better and a worse film than either one of them is.

I do confess to not being a very big fan of rape-revenge movies, despite having seen a startling number of them. Usually their efforts to bring something new to the table are something along the mentally vacant lines of Rape is a Circle making the rapist a woman. I’m not saying Death Weekend really brings anything new to the table, but at least it’s comparatively well filmed, and manages to go most of the film without being as morally vacant as most of its brethren (the ending is still atrocious, but I guess it was expecting too much to think we could make it through the entire film without a problem). It’s not a good movie, but it’s an alright one, and sometimes that’s all you can really ask for.

Rating: **

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