George Manning (Seymour Cassel) is playing croquet with his wife, enjoying some time alone with her while their children are visiting their grandparents. However, their peace is broken when the telephone rings and there's news from the kids: their son has appendicitis and Mrs Manning elects to go to attend to him in hospital, leaving George on his own as he has a big meeting soon and cannot afford to get away. That night, left by himself, he answers the door to two young women who call themselves Jackson (Sondra Locke) and Donna (Colleen Camp) and they tell him a story about getting lost on the way to a friend's house - and George is unwise enough to let them in...
A film about a male sexual fantasy turning into his worst nightmare, Death Game was almost forgotten about for years after it was made, occasionally surfacing to surprise viewers of late night television or those who pick up bargain videos and DVDs simply because the product is cheap and not because they're massively interested in seeing the film, until Eli Roth remade it nearly four decades later as Knock Knock. But it does surprise: not because of the sexual content, which is swamped by other things, but by the intensity of the performances of two actresses who had been perfectly capable elsewhere, but here shot into the stratosphere of craziness that neither seems to want to come down from.
First, that fantasy: once George has invited the girls in to dry off (it has been pouring with rain), they use his phone to call a friend to pick them up - a friend who never arrives. One thing leads to another and the girls are so impressed with his hot tub that they strip off and make use of it, and when he walks in to see what they are up to, they seduce him in spite of his protests that he is a married man. Obviously he doesn't protest too much, as soon we are treated to a montage, heavy on the dissolves, that depicts them appreciating what I believe is termed a "romp". So they all appear to have enjoyed themselves, but this is not a porno movie and George will soon have to pay for his dalliance.
However, the price he is subject to is far above what he has done, after all it was all consensual, but the women turn nasty after they've spent the night, treating their reluctant host to a huge breakfast which they set about with a lack of table manners which disgusts George so much he asks them to leave. They're quite happy to stay put, though, and start claiming that they're underage and will cry rape if he doesn't indulge them, but he will not be moved and begins to call the police to get rid of them. OK, says Jackson, you win, drive us to nearby San Francisco and we'll be out of your hair forever, but as this occurs only halfway through the running time you have your doubts that they'll live up to this promise.
When George gets back in to his house, you'll never guess who is waiting for him. Oh, you did guess, that's right, it's the terrible twosome who knock him out and tie him to the bed with torn up sheets, then proceed to raid his wife's wardrobe and makeup. Needless to say the worst is yet to come and their behaviour alters drastically from that of naughty schoolchildren to something far more malevolent. All the way through Locke and Camp play this up to lunatic effect, often screaming at the top of their voices for prolonged periods, so much so that they grow genuinely unnerving as their characters go out of control. There's also a very strange song that keeps getting played on the soundtrack, a Cockney knees-up tribute to the singers' father which is practically the sole pointer to what is motivating the psychopaths, but even then their motives seem based entirely around male fears of being trapped by untrammelled feminine rage. It is a bit too one-note to sustain its length, and the ending is farcically abrupt, but you won't forget Jackson and Donna in a hurry. Based on a true story, apparently. Music by Jimmie Haskell.