From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Ken, Gregg and Artie are old army buddies and fun loving family men, all with pretty wives and cute kids, who take an annual boys only trip out to a cabin they’ve built in the wilderness for a long weekend of boozing and shooting. Trouble is the 3 pals are not content with popping buck shot at a few ducks and squirrels. On a remote country road the 3 men force a car to stop and soon eloping lovers Nancy and Martin find themselves involuntary ‘guests’ of the hunting party.
As the film’s pre-credits prologue has already warned us these 3 respectable all American husbands are capable of rape with no fear of reprisal and in the remote reaches of the forest no-one’s around to hear the screams of their prey. Symbolically chaining Nancy to the kitchen sink the 3 chauvinist charmers act as if it’s all just a big joke to hold the terrified couple hostage. When their ultimate agenda is revealed Nancy and Marty are given a 30-minute head start on escaping before the hunters set off in pursuit. However Ken, Gregg and Artie are not alone in their blood lust and the story takes a vengeful twist that sees the hunters become the hunted.
‘Open Season’ is a superbly tense and twisted thriller that rises above its admittedly derivative denouement by virtue of some superb performances and the confident direction Peter Collinson.
The Most Dangerous Game, Deliverance and Straw Dogs are the film's most obvious points of reference. Both the wilderness locations and the banjo-centric score recall John Borman’s 1972 hillbilly thriller but more significantly ‘Open Season’ shares a discomforting atmosphere of inevitable sexual violence with Sam Peckinpah’s infamous 1971 classic. In fact Martin’s emasculation (forced to wash dishes wearing a pinafore while Nancy is raped by the drunk hunters) is designed to drive him to violence in exactly the same manner as Dustin Hoffman’s masculinity is challenged in the Peckinpah film and both movies equate male sexuality with primitivism and chauvinism. In a particularly unsettling moment Gregg and Ken coerce Nancy into telling Martin that she’s not being forced to do anything that she doesn’t want to.
I don’t hesitate to award Grindhouse Oscar’s to the entire cast however Fonda, Lynch and Law in particular all give brilliant performances full of casual sadism and psychosis; like playground bullies with no concept of mercy or empathy these frat boy libertines are chillingly plausible villains. The film practically oozes menace and in his manipulation of audience anxiety over the inevitable violence to come director Peter Collinson shows himself to be as much a master of building tension as was Peckinpah.
British born Collinson is most famous for directing 1969’s ‘The Italian Job’ but he’s also responsible for the Hammer Studios psycho-thriller Straight on Till Morning as well as the excellent Fright starring Susan George of ‘Straw Dogs’ fame. Thanks to the lack of any U.K or U.S. DVD release (to date) to bring the film to the attention of a modern audience ‘Open Season’ remains a relatively obscure entry in Collinson’s filmography which is a shame as it is, in my opinion, one of the best revenge driven dramas of the 1970s.
Narcan is the GCDb's esteemed UK contributor. As a youth his earliest exploitation film experience was a My Bloody Valentine/The Funhouse midnight double bill. Grindhouse icons that he holds in highest regards are Christina Lindberg and Frank Henelotter. Two of his favorite exploitation genres include Nunsploitation and Lucha Libre.