Monday, February 25, 2013

Drive-In Collection: Savage Water/Death By Invitation Review

Savage Water

Director: Paul Kener
Writer: Kipp Boden (screenplay)
Stars: Gil Van Waggoner, Ron Berger, Bridget Agnew
Runtime: 95 Minutes
AR: 1.85:1
Considered by the few people who have actually seen it to be one of the worst slashers ever made, Savage Water is one hell of a weird movie. Boring, uneventful and lengthy, but at turns completely rife with hilariously stupid dialogue. It's one of the rarest slashers out there (never released on VHS or DVD in the US) and this DVD put out by Vinegar Syndrome is the first chance most people will have to see this movie in 35 years.

The setup is pretty simple, a large group of tourists endure a doomed white water rafting trip. That's really all there is to it. As I mentioned, this is considered a slasher, though there is very little in the way of slashing. Several of the people's deaths are their own fault. The first 3 deaths are fall related. Of these 3 falling deaths 2 are accidental. Another person is poisoned. We don't have a proper slashing until the 69 minute mark. And there isn't another one after that. There are plenty of deaths, this just never felt all that slasher-like in my opinion.

This movie is undoubtedly terrible, though I didn't find it very hard to get through. Mainly because I never knew what was going to happen next. This thing is bananas right from the start. A narrator with a deep southern drawl speaks for a minute then suddenly breaks into a 3-minute long song about Colorado. A title screen lets us know this man is named Doug Warr. A second more horrifying screen then appears warning us that yet another song by Doug Warr awaits us at some point in the near future. Throughout the movie scenes fade out like they're anticipating a commercial break. People are German for no reason. Arab guys propose marriage to perky blonde women they've just met. People die and nobody seems all that bothered by it.

Bad movie fans should have a lot of fun with this. There isn't a lot of action, and the death scenes are all very sudden and brief. However, this movie is loaded with weirdo dialogue.
  • "There's lots of canyons around but this is the only one they call the "Grand Canyon"
  • "Well lets say that you've locked yourself out of the house, and so you go out to your mailbox to get the key..."
  • "My wife has this condition, she gets very upset when she has to eat in the dark"
  • "Ah, the black guy fell"
  • Condescendingly, to a dead guy who fell off of a cliff: "It wasn't even that hard of a climb, Mike."
  • Talking about a woman who was stabbed in the throat: "This death was no accident."
  • And the most flubbed line in the history of flubbed lines: "Karma, what is it you all, all you guy, you hippy guys, uh, talk about?"
In addition to the odd dialogue, there are a tremendous amount of flubbed lines. It's amazing really, there are so many flubbed lines it's easier to count the number of lines that aren't flubbed than the number of lines that are. It starts to seem like the whole movie is an elaborate prank made by a bunch of clever geniuses. Let's make an entire slasher film where every single line is botched. Sadly, I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case.

I think slasher buffs need to see this one based on rarity and notoriety alone. Savage Water was scanned in 2k from the 35mm theatrical print. It's quite grainy, but considering the obscurity, I think it looks quite good. The disc is light on extras since it shares the disc with another movie, but it does include an amusing Hysteria Continues commentary track.

Things to watch for:
Shitter Tent
My wife is a Nycto-Sitophobiac
World's gropiest life perserver demonstration
Slasher history's first Arab guy!
Death By Salad
In-raft Knife Fight
Tag Team CPR

Death by Invitation

Director: Ken Friedman
Writer: Ken Friedman
Stars: Shelby Leverington, Aaron Phillips, Norman Paige
Runtime: 81 Minutes
AR: 1.85:1

In a prologue that takes place in Holland in the 1650's a young woman is accused of witchcraft. She is sentenced to death by the Vroot family. 300 years later, yet somehow in the 1970s, Lise, a descendant of the murdered woman seeks revenge on the Vroot family. She befriends the mother of the family and uses her friendship to get close to the family so that she can attempt to kill them off, one by one.

This was the acting debut of Shelby Leverington who plays Lise. Even though this was her first movie, she brings a quiet intensity to her role and she really carries the movie. When she wasn't onscreen my attention started to wander a bit. Or in the case of the brutally long scene in Vroot's office, my attention wandered a lot. However, any scene with Lise, I was glued to the screen. It feels weird to compliment acting in a movie like this, but I was pretty impressed with her. Leverington appears to have done mostly TV bit parts after this, it's a shame she didn't do more leading parts.

Produced by Leonard Kirtman (Carnival of Blood, Curse of the Headless Horseman), while feeling a lot like Carnival and Curse, it also reminds me of the Harry Novak horror stuff Something Weird put out like The Child. The whole time I kept thinking "man, this really seems like something that Something Weird would've released." And sure enough, they did.

Like Savage Water, this is a pretty slow moving movie. However, there are a couple of rather effective scenes, like a haunting monologue by Lise about a tribe of female cannibals, and a very well done double daughter death scene. Death By Invitation has more scratches and print damage than Savage Water, but does seem to have an overall better image quality. Like Savage Water, this one also features a Hysteria Continues commentary track.

Things to watch for:
Dutch Goths of the 1600's
Dutch Black Guys of the 1600's
Human Meat Sack
The death scene of the two daughters (not trying to be funny here, this was a very effective scene)

Random thing I noticed, but couldn't find a place to fit into the review: The image of Shelby on the DVD cover makes her look pretty Buscemian, but they must've been using a really fucked camera during that scene because she's actually perfectly attractive most of the time.

Street date is 3.12.13. Order directly from Vinegar Syndrome for $14.98 with free US shipping. Also available at most other retailers like Amazon or Diabolik.

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