Blood Rage, 1987
Directed by John Grissmer.
Starring Louise Lasser, Mark Soper, Marianne Kanter, Julie Gordon, James French, Ed French, William Fuller, Ted Raimi and Jayne Bentzen.
The twin brother of a killer who was blamed for a murder escapes from psychiatric hospital and returns home to prove his innocence.
It takes about five minutes of Blood Rage to give you everything you need to piece together what is going to happen; there are two cute-as-a-button twin boys, a drive-in, a horny mother on a date and, for some random reason, an axe. Then there’s a murder, committed by one of the cute-as-a-button twin boys who smears his innocent brother in blood and places the weapon in his hands as their hysterical mother approaches.
Flash forward 10 years and Maddy (Louise Lasser – Frankenhooker/Crimewave) is visiting her son Todd (Mark Soper – Swordfish) in the psychiatric hospital where he has been since that tragic night and has not spoken a word. However, Maddy is given the news by Todd’s doctor that Todd has snapped out of his trance-like state and has begun to remember what happened, blaming his brother Terry (Soper playing a dual role) for the murder and protesting his innocence. Refusing to believe him Maddy returns home and carries on with her Thanksgiving celebrations, which includes breaking the news to Terry that she is about to marry her boyfriend Brad (William Fuller – Porky’s Revenge). With a jealous Terry beginning to see red, an unwelcome phone call telling Maddy that Todd has escaped pushes him into a murderous rage that sees the unstable twin embark on a night of bloodthirsty terror. But which one of the twins will get the blame
Cleaning up and transferring old VHS titles onto Blu-ray can be something of a double-edged sword as on the one hand it is nice to see things clearly and maybe notice details you never saw before; on the other, it also shows up a lot of things that the shaky and blurry VHS images hid and Blood Rage is a good example of this. Aside from highlighting the fact that most of the actors in the film have terribly stained teeth, the HD clean up also reveals a lot of how the special effects were achieved. You see, unlike your average mid-‘80s slasher Blood Rage actually has some decent gore beyond the usual throat slitting and chest stabbing, but thanks to the joys of digital manipulation you can see how pretty much all of the gags were done, like the woman cut in half and still twitching who you can clearly see is laying in a hole with her real torso covered up. There are also dead bodies that, if you look carefully, you can see breathing and moving ever so slightly.
But these are the things that a critic would normally look for, especially on a first viewing. Watch the film a second time, however, and these small details disappear and the film becomes a lot more enjoyable. Much of this enjoyment can be credited to the performance of Louise Lasser who, in the first half of the film at least, plays it eccentric and kooky but manages to gain our sympathies for the grief that her children have given her. She also comes into her own at the end and is the most interesting character in the film. Mark Soper also does a good job in handling the dual roles of Terry and Todd, although the filmmakers could have used a better ‘lookalike’ than the one they did during the one scene where the two brothers are in the same shot – even the right coloured wig would have helped.
Originally released in 1987, despite being shot in 1983 (and it shows), Blood Rage missed out on the commercial peak of the slasher movie, which could have been the reason why it has been overlooked during the past 30-odd years and never officially received a home video release until now. This 3-disc set from Arrow Video comprises of three different versions of the film – a 2K restoration of the original home video version, the re-cut (i.e. most of the gore removed) 1987 theatrical cut entitled Nightmare at Shadow Woods and a composite cut featuring footage from both of the other versions – and although it isn’t really necessary to have three cuts of the film it does give an indication of the way these types of films were treated at the time. The set is bolstered up with a few short interviews from key cast and crew members, plus an audio commentary from director John Grissmer and a couple of other titbits, but there’s not a whole lot to get your teeth into.
Overall, Blood Rage is a 1980s slasher movie that places itself firmly in the middle of the genre output of the era. It is gorier than most of the other non-franchise slashers and it does try to add a bit of intensity by beginning with a brutal kill and barely letting up for most of the running time, but if you put it in the context of 1987 and what was going on in the world of mainstream horror at the time (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Hellraiser, Evil Dead 2, etc.) it does feel a bit tame and anachronistic. On a technical level it is a little shoddy but it does have the feel the early Friday the 13th sequels thanks to the amount of blood spilt and the use of a machete during some of the kills, and if nothing else it does at least tick all of the boxes when it comes to gore, nudity and an unimaginative plot, the three things that most slasher movies rely on. Certainly worth a look for genre devotees but casual viewers looking for scary horror mayhem may be better served elsewhere.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★