I threw this on one night when I still wasn't tired, thinking it would be total schlock and I would just get a quick sense of it before falling asleep. What a surprise, then, when it turned out to be creepy and artistic and deeply disturbing; just the way I like it; and I knew that I would have to devote a second viewing just to examine it in greater detail. Savage Weekend is one of the most innovative horror films ever made as far as I'm concerned. It might come across as a bit uneven to some viewers, but really it's better than average in many ways. Although filmed in America with an American cast and crew, one might assume this was a European film if you watched it without the sound. This was deliberate on the directors part. He gives his movie a European style, and it only makes the film seem more artistic and potent.
The story of Savage Weekend is inspired and suspenseful. Rich New York City businessman Robert decides to take his fiancée Marie and three of their friends upstate to his vacation home to relax. Everyone seems to be enjoying their time resting, drinking and enjoying each other's company. This good time is spoiled by the appearance of a masked killer who begins stalking and then bothering the vacationers one by one.
First-time writer-director David Paulsen spends nearly a full hour on set-up, a risky proposition that might have grown tedious if it weren't for the unhurried care and mounting intrigue he brings to this elongated opening act. By concentrating on the charms and realism of his characters and their naturalistic, laid-back relationships with each other, the crucial turn toward mortal danger means a great deal more to the viewer. And, when one of them meets an abrupt, premature end, you feel their loss after wards. Once Savage Weekend makes a sudden turn toward sheer panic and terror, director David Paulsen aims squarely for the jugular. As deliberately paced as the first hour isessential to making the visceral impact Paulsen wants to in the last thirdthe last thirty minutes are tightly edited, graphically violent in rattlingly unexpected ways, and breathlessly intense. In a change of events for the genre, the four protagonists do the smart thing at all times, their minds always working in logical ways that fit their horrific situation. In turn, their deaths do not arise out of their own stupidity, but because their dire circumstances prove impossible to overcome.
The direction in this movie is never anything but innovative and exciting. Take the scenes with the local psycho Otis, played by none other than William Sanderson. I was shocked at how vividly Paulsen captures Otis' insanity in the scenes where he is seen talking to himself. They might seem annoying to some, but those scenes were the most memorable for me, as they actually brought back memories. I spent 3 fun-filled years back in college working in a State Mental Hospital while going to school full-time. A lot of the folks I was dealing with, and I normally dealt with the "cream of the crop", often mumbled - a lot. It was like they were really not having a conversation with anyone that "we" could see, so they did not care if "we" could hear them. Paulsen also shows some amazing skill dispaying sexual tension in the scene in which Marie is sunbathing on a boat with two male companions. The two men are engaging in a coversation when we are suddenly shown a closeup of Marie's inner thighs. The camera then zooms slowly over her body to great effect.
I have never read a review of Savage Weekend that didn't mention the film's graphic sexuality. Here we have Marie having sex with Jay twice, Shirley having sex with Robert, Marie having sex with Greg, Shirley sunbathing nude, Marie making out with Mac, Marie rubbing herself in front of Mac and Jay, and Robert tearing Shirley's bikini off. Many reviews have stated that Savage Weekend's frequent sexual distractions were unnecessary and childish. I see it differently. We actually have significant character development taking place during the numerous sex scenes. For example, Marie can't have sex with Jay without fantasizing about being with her estranged husband, Greg. This obsession with Greg causes her to later turn down a sexual encounter with Mac. Shirley is shown to be a particularly reckless woman through her sexual behavior in this film. She thinks nothing of having sex with Robert in the middle of a field during broad daylight.
I was completely gripped by this movie while watching it. The combination of total weirdness, striking photography, constant scary tension based around what the killer is going to do next, and the vague off-kilter nature of it due to its subject matter made this one unforgettable film. It's a shame that the director never went on to direct anymore films following this. He spent the rest of his career in television, where his considerable talents were put to somewhat lesser use. Now that it has finally been released on DVD, I see the audience for this film to grow exponentially. See it and be prepared to carry images from this movie around for a long time.