MILL CREEK DRIVE-IN CLASSICS: Savage Weekend (1976)

While it wasn’t released until 1979, the movie that became Savage Weekend — also The Killer Behind the Mask — started as The Upstate Murders. That means that it predates most of the commonly accepted “first” slashers like Halloween and Friday the 13th.

It was acquired by the Cannon Group — one of the few slashers they put out along with Silent Night, Bloody Night*X-RayNew Year’s Evil and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, although I can make an argument for CobraHero and the Terror and 10 to Midnight being slashers and I consider Schizoid Americanized giallo — and had a budget of $58,000.

This is a slasher with the most ridiculous of conceits — everyone comes to upstate New York to see a new schooner — but it also has a heroic gay character (Nicky, played by Christopher Allport, who was in both Jack Frost movies and ironically killed in real life by an avalanche) and a woman escaping a bad marriage which seemingly has followed her. Also, since the aspect ratio got screwed up, the boom mic is a frequent co-star.

That said, it has a sewing needle through the head, someone accidentally killed by a bandsaw when the wrong light switch gets turned on, a hanging and an Upstate New York Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not perfect — it’s barely even worthwhile — but at least director/writer got to go on and make the much more interesting Schizoid, which has hot tub therapy sessions, scissor murders, Donna Wilkes being in love with her father Klaus Kinski and a love scene where Kinski has sex with a stripper against a hot water heater.

*I realize that this film is a Dewey-Friedland Cannon release and not Golan-Globus. That said, Golan-Globus distributed Graduation DayDon’t Go Near the Park and The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, but did not make them.

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