a Primal Root written review
“This motion picture is based on a true story. It should serve to remind us that fate allows no man to insulate himself against the evil which pervades our society.” – opening title to Death Game (1977)
Dear Penthouse Forum,
My wife and kid were out of town and I was all alone in my immaculately maintained mansion that my high ranking position at a well-to-do white collar job affords me. I was minding my own business, listening to some records, enjoying the bachelore lifestyle one dark and stormy night when all of a sudden a rapping came at my front door. It was two gorgeous blondes, soaking wet looking to use my phone. I didn’t want to send them back out into the cold stormy night, so I invited them in to use our family telephone and dry themselves off. I mean…it’s the decent thing to do, right? I never for a second had any intention of sticking my penis in either of these blossoming young women…Not a single thought of it…
So commences the simple, provocative, male fantasy the initiates the 1977 horror film, Death Game aka: The Seducers. The film that genuinely gives you a boner and then savagely tears it away, smacks you across the face with it and leaves you standing in your shame. Loving, caring family man and business man, George Manning (Seymour Cassel, Max Fisher’s Dad from Rushmore), is on his own for the next couple nights. See, his wife had to go on an emergency trip to take care of their young son whose appendix ruptured while staying with his Grandparents on summer vacation. While at home along in his expensive west coast home a storm rolls in, and with it, two young women, who claim to have lost their way while trying to find a party. Soaked to the bone, they ask to use George’s phone. He kindly obliges them and gives them robes so that they may dry off.
The two nubile, shapely, incredibly attractive young ladies are Jackson (Sondra Locke) and Donna (Colleen “HELLOOOOO NURSE!” Camp) and after lounging by the fire side with George and listening to records, Agatha and Donna strip nude and lure George into and threesome in the downstairs bathroom…which has an enormous jacuzzi tub and a fucking sauna. George is loaded, Gang. George puts up a minor struggle before dropping trou and getting wet wild with the two luscious vixens. Now, I never figured in my wildest dreams that I’d ever watch the Dad from Rushmore in a hot as balls threesome sequence with the likes of Ms. Locke and my long standing wet dream Colleen Camp, but I can say this, it is a pretty amazing spectacle to behold.
Soon comes the morning, and George finds that Jackson and Donna making a mess in the kitchen as they make a sloppy, disgusting breakfast. They spill food and shit all over the house, destroy expensive stereo equipment, smear food on themselves and act like little psychotic hyperactive kids from Hell as we watch reality start to sink in on George’s face. Donna has even grown a strange, unhealthy attraction to George and has begun calling him, “Daddy.” Gang, this is not good. After threatening to call the police, Jackson and Donna agree to let George drive them to the bus station only to break it no his house later, assault George, tie him up and torture the bastard for the rest of the weekend all while screaming about “Daddy.” Late in the evening Jackson and Donna decide to hold a mock court and put George on trial, accusing him or rape and perversion. George is allowed to defend himself, claiming that his family needs him. The mock court deliberates and find George guilty as charged and will be executed at dawn which is counted down by hour glass.
Now, earlier in the film we see George lovingly spend time with his wife. The two are obviously in love with one another, enjoy each other’s company. He speaks on the phone sweetly to his son. It;s not like George is an abusive, inattentive, cold scum bag. He’s a average guy living the good life. He has everything he could possibly want right at his finger tips. He is happy and content, but never the less, welcomes the sexual attention of the wet, slinky, bosomy foxes who show up on his doorstep while his faithful wife is away. George is never perceived as a bad guy, just the typical man. Death Game implies that the average Joe, when confronted with two dripping wet nekkid seductresses would, when push come to in-out-in out, give in and start log jammin’. No questions asked. And then they throw the pussy out the window. Literally. It;s pretty awesome.
Jackson and Donna quickly turn from being a straight male fantasy (booty to be plundered) to being sinister, embarrassing reminders of the dark side of our carnal lusts and the damage giving into these animalistic wants can incur. The two girls become a threat to Georges safe and happy life. They threaten to destroy his reputation in the community, end his marriage and tear apart his family, even his awesome house is at stake. Jackson and Donna are the darkest side to the male sexual fantasy of getting away with an affair and, in the eyes of Death Game, exposes men as incapable of being trusted and willing to throw everything away for the possibility of a scott free fuck on the side.
Whether or not you agree with Death Game’s thesis, it mercilessly pounds it’s point home as George, a pillar of his community, falls prey to his own sexual desires. Sure, we are witness to images of Jackson as she she bites into a juicy red apple and looking every bit the seductive serpent found in the garden of Eden, but the responsibility for everything that happens to him falls solely on George, who was led by the yearning of his throbbing lower appendage. The two young ladies, who claim to be underage after spreading ’em for George, are clearly insane and deeply scarred, one assumes, due to sexual abuse by the hands of their Fathers. It’s something heavily implied in the subtext of Death Game, and it’s not too subtle, either. One listen to the film’s opening song “Good Old Dad” will clue you in to what kind of nasty subject matter we’re dealing with here and the apparent feminist underpinnings of Death Game’s story.
One of my favorite aspects of Death Game is the way the film’s director, Peter S Traynor, utilizes the male gaze to arouse our voyeuristic impulses as soon as Jackson and Donna arrive at George’s door. We are treated and teased with brief glimpses of Jackson’s bare legs and her panties under her robe, a momentary view of Donna’s impressive cleavage, as we begin to view the two as sexual objects, just as George sees them. This is done seamlessly, efficiently and masterfully. We become around along with George. All three of our central character meld together as images overlap one another during their threesome and all seems right, everything perfect, wonderful, a fantasy made flesh.
But, as often seems to occur with these forms of encounters, in the unforgiving first light of morning, reality has a way of annihilating perception of perfection.
Jackson and Donna usurp George’s male authority in his own home, dominating him both mentally and physically in a series of brutal, sadistic, set pieces. Ultimately, Death Game drives it’s grueling, nasty, (and feminist) take on the man’s true nature home. Donna and Jackson could have knocked on any of George’s neighbor’s door, randomly selected, met any man and the exact same scenario could have taken place. What I believe the message Death Game is trying to deliver is that the real horror, the real evil of is not coming from Jackson and Donna, no, they are a result of sexual objectification and abuse in our society. George could be any man whose desires have gotten the better of him, and Death Game associates that failing with Jackson and Donna’s psychotic and homicidal nature.
You can love or hate, take or leave the feminist politics inherent in Death Game, but you cannot deny how fucking excellent the film is. Sure, the ending is more than a little abrupt and out of left field, but otherwise, the performances are phenomenal and it is directed with precision, skill, and nuance. It manages to both titillate, terrify and leave your pulse racing. But, something I appreciate far more than this, it’s a horror flick that boldly starts a discussion. Death Game is a brilliant film that drudges up the subject of sexual politics and it’s most taboo, discomforting points. The ones we seldom like to bring up or discuss in polite society, again, reinforcing why I pledge my eternal love to horror in all it’s forms. It is not an escape, it is not an exit, it is a long, often deeply disconcerting look in the mirror forcing us to face and question who we are as individuals and as a whole.
Death Game is a damn fine slice of psycho sexual horror and one I cannot dent makes me feel wonderfully, helplessly uncomfortable. I would love for one of The Trash Cinema Collective to show this to either their prospective girlfriend or boyfriend on a first date. Please do, and let me know the outcome.
Also, Colleen Camp, The Trash Cinema Collective salutes. She is one HEALTHY girl!
I award Death Game FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.
Watch it with someone you’re sure of. Here’s hoping the upcoming Eli Roth produced remake “Knock, Knock” starring Keanu Reeves *snicker* prompts someone to release a remastered copy of Death Game. Let me tell ya, my DVD of this flick looks like someone shoved the VHS tape up a horses ass and then transferred it directly to a DVD. Really, it looks terrible. Can someone please release a cleaned up copy of this one? Much obliged.