Monday, October 9, 2017

Movie Review: "Death Game" (1977)

Director: Peter S. Traynor
Year: 1977
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

A married man whose family is out of town allows two young women out of the rain and into his home. These two women proceed to seduce, tie up, and torture this man for their own twisted pleasure.

Who would have thought in a movie about two women torturing a man, the most torturous thing about it would be its theme song?

"Death Game" is full-on 70's grindhouse exploitation cinema. Director Peter S. Traynor, who only has one other directorial credit to his name with the film "Evil Town," shot this movie on what feels like low-quality film stock in a 4:3 aspect ratio. It almost looks like it has a home movie quality and that could be because there is no original negative to restore. Maybe the prints were diminished over the years. This film stars Seymour Cassel as George Manning, a married man whose wife has gone out of town with their son. Joining him are Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp, who play Jackson and Donna, two young women who show up on George's doorstep one dark and rainy night claiming to be lost. After a few minutes out of the storm, the two young women remove their clothes and seduce George. From there, things get quickly out of hand. After the three have relations, the two women refuse to leave and reveal that they are both minors, letting him know if he calls the cops, he will be arrested. They then proceed to tie him up and torture him for the rest of the movie.

If this film sounds in any way familiar, it's probably because it was recently remade by Eli Roth into a film called "Knock Knock" starring Keanu Reeves. Interestingly enough, two of the stars of the original film, Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke, as well as director Peter S. Traynor, all helped produce the 2015 remake.

This movie uses what can be seen as a fantasy scenario to turn it into a nightmare situation. We think back to the line in "Detroit Rock City" that goes: "I mean... they make scary movies that start out like that...Hey, but, but they make porno movies that start out like that too, man." This line couldn't be more true for "Death Game." This man probably thought he hit the jackpot when two girls he believed to be college-aged randomly show up on his doorstep and throw themselves at him sexually. As with most horror movies, however, there is a morality tale at play, and those who act in a sexually deviant manner are met with severe consequences.

Both Camp and Locke act like spastic psychopaths with no moral compass. They seem to derive pleasure from torturing older men, springing from whatever daddy issues they've had growing up. Some of the talk does come off as severe as it is heavily implied at least one of these girls was molested by their father and that the other girl's father was never present. We were reminded of other modern films that have drawn inspiration from the performances of Camp and Locke. It would seem Sheri Moon Zombie does an almost a spot-on impression of Colleen Camp looking back on her mannerisms in "House of 1000 Corpses," though it could just be a coincidence. The ladies break stuff around the house, scream, beg, whine, and cackle, but most of their torture consists of mental abuse and humiliation tactics. It only gets physical when their captor tries to escape. It's difficult to watch because they are so sadistic.

On a very different note, the soundtrack for this movie is bizarre and extremely tonally different than what happens on screen. It's off-putting but simultaneously grating as hell. As we mentioned above, the theme song, which plays multiple times throughout the film for little to no reason, is absolutely horrendous. We're having flashbacks just thinking about it, so obviously the movie did its job.

In the end, there are some elements we liked about "Death Game," but the overall experience wound up being rather mediocre.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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