Tagline: Not all the evil is on Elm Street
Director: John Grissmer
Writer: Bruce Rubin (as Richard Lamden)
Starring: Louise Lasser, Mark Soper, Julie Gordon, Jayne Bentzen, Marianne Kanter, James Farrell, Chad Montgomery, Lisa Randall, William Fuller, Douglas Weiser, Gerry Lou, Ed French, Dana Drescher, Brad Leland, Rebecca Thorp
18 | 1hr 22min | Horror, Slasher
Blood Rage is a goofy little number which peddles horror the way Head and Shoulders peddles shampoo.
Originally titled Shadow at Nightmare Woods, the movie’s 1983 theatrical release coincided with the censorship crusade of the early 1980s, and was therefore stripped of its gruesome embellishments until Prism Entertainment rescued it from the MPAA’s pitiless expurgation. By 1987—the year of its largely uncut home video release—the slasher genre had undergone the kind of metamorphosis that turned a cynical vacuum of vivisection into a sparkling wink of self-knowing. When Blood Rage eventually received a wide release, this formula was already bordering on the passé, but back in 1983 it was quite the innovation.
Blood Rage was finally able to get its bludgeoned corpse through the door due to its downright silliness. Something akin to Sam Speigel’s slightly superior Intruder released two years later, it often has the episodic feel of a terrestrial television show, with cheap sets, heavily-lacquered hairstyles, and unapologetic melodrama swimming in a deluge of blood and guts. If you’ve ever in your boredom wondered what it would be like to unleash a psychotic killer on the set of Dallas, then wonder no more. All you have to do is watch this movie.
John Grissmer’s grue-filled treat is a garish absurdity from top to bottom, from the distinctly unimaginative title to a tagline that references A Nightmare on Elm Street for no other reason than to sponge off Krueger‘s Dream Warriors popularity. The violence is permeated with relentless humour, both intentional and otherwise, and then you have the plot itself, which is so obvious and simply executed that the movie was destined for cult status among slasher fans, although those who prefer their murder deadly serious may prefer to find their fix elsewhere.
It’s 1974, and single mum and parent of the year Maddy (Louise Lasser) is making out with a rather aggressive fellow at a drive-in movie while Todd and Terry sleep in the back. Maddy is worried about exposing her twin boys to her salacious acts, and with good cause. Moments later, the two terrors climb out of the car and go wandering, one of them deciding to bury a hatchet in the skull of a teenager making out with his girlfriend in the backseat of his car. A crowd of people find the two boys covered in blood, but which of them is the evil twin?
Thirteen years later and the long-suffering Dr. Berman (Marianne Kanter) is convinced that it isn’t Terry, even though the poor lad has spent his entire childhood inside a mental asylum. Meanwhile, twin brother Tony has been living the life of riley as a popular high school jock with a trophy girlfriend. Berman has voiced her concerns to Maddy, but she is buried beneath so much self-delusion that she is either an incredibly talented actress desperate for a payday or a real-life manic-depressive halfway into a bottle of scotch. Research tells me that she was once married to Woody Allen, so it may very well be both.
Inevitably Todd escapes, and Terry uses this as an excuse to go on the kind of killing spree that more than a decade of pent-up bloodlust will inspire, safe in the knowledge that he can once again pin the massacre on his downtrodden sibling. Mark Soper plays both the ego-maniacal Terry and his pallid brother, Todd, so hats off to him for lighting up a cast of mostly teenage fodder. Lasser’s increasingly melodramatic performance is another must-see for its unadulterated cringe factor, and only adds to the self-censoring idiocy that makes the whole affair so irresistible.
There are some woefully inept moments which border on on the astonishing, particularly those in which a desperate Maddy prattles on the telephone for 4 intermittent scenes or manically races around the house pushing a vacuum cleaner, while an early interaction in which a voice over and dialogue clash is positively baffling. Maddie’s descent into madness (see what they did there?) is quite the spectacle, a Day-Glo prelude to Ellen Burstyn’s catastrophic breakdown in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, a movie which Lasser actually starred in. Blood Rage also features cinema’s first ever condom dealer (Ted Raimi in a brief cameo), a heinous creature who makes his scratch off the back of other people’s safe sex.
If that isn’t worth the price of admission, then I don’t know what is.
Of course, this all proves part of the movie’s brand of psycho charm, and with decapitations, poolside slayings, mutilated corpses and heads split in two like watermelons, slasher freaks will adore the almost relentless death and destruction packed into a meagre 82 minutes that will almost certainly fly by.
After sharing a joint with a teenage hospital aid sent to tranquillise his ‘loony’ brother, genuine nutter Terry draws his trusty machete and plunges it deep into the poor fellow’s stomach, grinning from ear to ear as it slides all the way to the handle. Yikes!
Most Absurd Moment
Creeping up on his mother’s soon-to-be-husband, Terry taps maliciously on the door frame to get the man’s attention before slicing his hand clean off. That same hand, still cradling a beer, then proceeds to jiggle and twitch like Thing T. Thing in the grip of a finger-originated nightmare. The hand would later go on to become state champion of the breakdancing circuit.
Most Absurd Dialogue
After chopping Dr. Berman clean in half with his machete, a maniacal Terry slurps some of her blood from his fingertips, taking a moment to taste before making the perversely calm declaration that will become his inimitable catchphrase.
Terry: That’s not cranberry juice!
Hokey, absurd and unrepentantly graphic, Blood Rage is everything a post-censorship slasher should be, while a wonderful 80s soundtrack will leave fans of Synthwave creaming from the ears. One of the more interesting entries in a largely unimaginative sub-genre, and as a tongue-in-cheek decimation of slasher tropes one of the true innovators.
Cedric Smarts: Editor-in-Chief and Art Director
Science fiction author, horror enthusiast, scourge of plutocracy, shortlisted for the H. G. Wells Award, creator of vhsrevival.com
Likes: 80s poster art, Vangelis, classical liberalism, dystopian allegories, dissident political activism, Noam Chomsky, George Orwell, George Saunders, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut