Director: John Grissmer
Year of release: 1987
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 79-82 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "This Thanksgiving...It's not cranberry sauce" and "Not all the evil is on Elm Street".
Also known as: Nightmare at Shadow Woods and Slasher.
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Originally filmed in 1983 but not released until 1987 Blood Rage is centred around two brothers who we first meet when they are pretty young at a drive in movie theatre. Here the siblings Terry and Todd after being ignored by their preoccupied Mother and her new boyfriend decide to go off exploring around the theatre site. In doing so Terry somewhat shockingly commits murder, killing a fellow visitor. In an equally surprising turn of events the dastardly Terry then goes about making the crime appear to be the work of his innocent brother Todd. Framed for a slaying he didn’t commit poor Todd is blamed for the incident and institutionalised.
Picking the story up some ten years later Todd has begun to question his role in what led him to his current surroundings after apparently being in a near catatonic state for much of the intervening years. With new found doubts over his guilt Todd manages to escape the institution and makes his way back home to confront his brother and possibly prove his own innocence.
Upon learning that his brother is free and on the lamb a still secretly psychotic Terry decides he has the perfect opportunity to go on a fresh killing spree around town. His intention being on once again pinning the crimes on his brother who is currently the subject of a police manhunt after his escape. As Terry sets about callously butchering all he encounters a desperate Todd tries to avoid detection from the authorities while at the same time trying to bring his brother to justice.
Good points: *Story-wise things feel a little different than your standard slasher as it doesn’t go down the normal route of either having a masked killer with a mystery of us trying to guess who it is or the more straightforward monster road where the killer is presented as some sort of super human freak ala Jason Vorhees. The siblings idea with one being the good twin and the other evil though not original in itself just in terms of general storytelling does offer a fresh perspective for a slasher movie and is a bit of a departure than what we more typically see. I did feel as if they were perhaps too quick to let us know which of the brothers was the guilty party letting us know right from the beginning as they did. More tension and suspense could have been built up had it not been revealed straight away and had instead been a more slow burn reveal as to who the true guilty brother was so maybe they missed a trick here. As it is though it still works pretty well and is different enough from most other films of it’s type to catch and hold your attention.
*Though not your typical lunatic from a visual perspective Terry makes up for his very normal appearance with a cold reptilian nature. He has an arrogance and a swagger about him that does go some way to creating an air of menace as does his willingness to murder those close to him with no remorse. Indeed he even displays a warped sense of humour when terrorising friends which puts him across as a complete unfeeling callous nutcase. Though I do normally much prefer the more traditional masked and costumed killer what we have instead here regarding Terry’s personality and manner together with his very normal teenage looks create an interesting boogeyman in their own way.
*Both Terry and Todd are played by the same actor (Mark Soper) who does a really good job of differentiating the two characters. Not only in looks but also in such things as their charisma and confidence the two characters feel both familiar and separate at the same time. Mark Soper also pulls some interesting facial expressions that help bring the characters to life.
*The uncut version of the film is extremely gruesome so if you enjoy a lot of blood and guts aplenty you will be well catered for here. Among a couple of severed body parts we also get to see someone completely cut in half. The special effects are more than up to the job of doing these scenes justice.
*Spoiler: The ending provides a satisfying climax with Terry ultimately receiving his comeuppance from an unlikely source. The Mother of the twins Maddy who plays a part in the final scenes is a fun character to watch as well with actress Louise Lasser doing a fine portrayal of a woman who seems just as unhinged as her son at times. She’s kind of hammy and cheesy but very watchable.
*Though nothing majorly special the soundtrack is rather decent, kind of a synth type score very reminiscent of the eighties so it goes along well with what we are seeing and adds to the fun campy eighties vibe.
Bad Points: *Very early on I was a little bit confused as to what kind of place the film was set in. For some reason I initially thought the Shadow Woods area was a sort of holiday camp site so I was expecting to see chalets or log cabins or something but this didn’t turn out to be the case. Instead it turned out to be an assortment of condos. Maybe it was just me who was confused and it is only a very minor thing of course so doesn’t really matter but I feel a better job could have been done with clarifying and establishing exactly what the Shadow Woods complex (if complex is even the right word) actually was.
*The character of Andrea is initially introduced as quite a shy character who is new to the area yet in the very next scene she seems to have undergone a personality transplant. The second time we see her she seems to be the life and soul of the party type, almost as if she is the most popular one in the group of kids of which Terry is a member.
*Another female character Karen (Terry’s girlfriend) is also done a disservice as initially when we first meet her she isn’t properly introduced and it isn’t immediately apparent exactly who she is and what her relationship is with Terry and his family.
*As good as many of the kills are they are also a tad unrealistic at times. Some would require a great deal of strength to carry out and as Terry is only a teenager and not a particularly well built one either it is hard to imagine him being able to pull some of this stuff off. Spoiler: The death of Bill is also a bit unrealistic in the sense that it is done without making any noise yet you would think hacking off a mans head would create a disturbance which would alert Julie. A small complaint though I know and the kills are mostly very fun so they shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
*Speaking of fun this can be a negative for me for the film as well as a positive as it seems to play things more for laughs at times instead of atmosphere and scares. As such it’s not a film to watch if you want to really feel on edge or be made to jump out of your seat. Terry’s normal appearance doesn’t help in this regard as though he makes up for other shortcomings in attitude his appearance doesn’t exactly elicit fear or intimidation.
Verdict: This was an enjoyable one with an interesting premise focusing as it did on twin brothers. It was helped along by very good performances by several of the lead actors as well as boasting some very gory, gooey special effects that still hold up to this day. Away from the special effects the film perhaps hasn’t aged so well as it comes across as a little corny and embarrassing at times but it could be said this all plays into the charm and camp eighties vibe. This is a good one to watch around Thanksgiving time as well should you celebrate the holiday. I think the film is generally a little overrated by some and although I found it hard to pick out many bad points, mainly just focusing on small things overall I just didn’t enjoy it as much as many others. As such I can’t rate it higher than a seven but I would say it is well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it. It certainly has some positive things going for it.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Male teenager: Killed with an axe to the head by young Terry at the drive in.
2)Brad: Hand lopped off and head cut in two with a machete.
3)Doctor’s assistant: Run through with machete.
4)Dr Brennan: Killed off camera with a machete. Later found cut in two pieces at the waist.
5)Bill: Killed off camera by decapitation. Head later hung by the door to scare Julie.
6)Julie: Killed off camera. Machete later pulled out of her chest.
7)Gregg: Throat cut at the swimming pool.
8)Andrea: Killed at the pool with a blow to the head with machete.
9)Artie: Stabbed in the neck with a fork type implement.
10)Terry: Shot by Maddy who believed him to be Todd.
11)Maddy: Commits suicide with gun. Was distressed after shooting who she wrongfully thought was the innocent son.