Ken (Peter Fonda), Greg (John Phillip Law) and Art (Richard Lynch) have been friends since school days. They were at college together, on active service together in Vietnam, and each year they take a holiday together.
They are prosperous with no money worries, well-housed, happily married to attractive wives, and they idolise their children. We meet them at a barbecue, an annual ritual that takes place on the eve of their hunting trip – a trip, incidentally, which they never share with their wives nor anyone else. It is strictly for the three inseparable friends.
The next morning, the three boisterous friends pile into their station wagon loaded with hunting and camping gear and head off for their hunting lodge – a log cabin in the wilds – for a fortnight’s hard drinking, uninhibited living, and killing everything that moves.
They have to break their journey halfway and put up at a motel where their real characters begin to show a little more plainly. Hard liquor soon helps them forget they are married men, and when they take up with three willing girls the holiday gets off to a good start.
They disturb a couple – Martin (Alberto de Mendoza) and Nancy Stillman (Cornelia Sharpe) – who are themselves enjoying a naughty weekend away from their respective spouses and when they meet the same couple the following day at a gas station, the trio exchange meaningful looks.
It seems the three inseparable companions make a habit of meeting up with couples on their annual excursions. They ran across another couple last year. And the year before that. For the past six years, in fact.
As the men draw nearer the wilds and leave civilisation behind them, their facade of urban respectability drops from them like a cloak and they become primaeval with no moral restraints to stop them from doing exactly as they please, with no thought or fear of the consequences of their vile acts.
Open Season is a tragic, horrific story that is all the more shocking for being entirely feasible. Given a country the size of America and three grown men with the wilful mindlessness of sadistic children, something like this could indeed happen.
Fonda, Law and Lynch portray the terrible trio with just the right balance of boyish high spirits masking essentially psychopathic natures. William Holden is ideally cast in a small but pivotal role as relentless avenger, Hal.
The interior scenes at the hunting lodge were all filmed at Pinewood Studios in England on a life-sized set on a soundstage. The opening scenes at Ken’s house and the exterior scenes on the island were all filmed on location in Spain.
John Phillip Law
Alberto de Mendoza