Written by: George Pacheco on December 3rd, 2015
BluRay released: November 23rd, 2015 (UK) / December 15th, 2015 (USA)
Approximate running times: 82 Minutes (Slasher), 80 minutes (Nightmare at Shadow Woods), 85 minutes (Composite Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
The film follows an emotionally unstable mother and her equally troubled twin sons, one of whom murders a man in cold blood at a drive in before placing the blame on his brother. Blood Rage then flashes forward to Thanksgiving many years later, with the innocent son, having spent much of his adult life locked away in an asylum, while the murderous brother lives with his mother at the “Shadow Woods” apartment complex. It isn’t long, of course, before murders begin popping up again. Can anyone stop the Blood Rage before it’s too late?
Mark Soper plays a dual role of twins Todd and Terry, while Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman actress-and former Mrs. Woody Allen-Louise Lasser takes on the role of a sexually permissive mother who may or may not be a bit too close to her boys. The performances here are all hammy and over-the-top, particularly from Lasser, who doesn’t seem to have any idea why she’s there, or how she should properly behave. Lines are flubbed, repeated and stepped on by actors across the board, but the haplessness of the production is honestly kind of charming in its ineptitude, making Blood Rage a great film to watch in a party situation with friends.
Director John Grissmer would only work on two other movies prior to this one, and his disinterest tends to show in the general vibe of craziness which pervades nearly every scene in the film. Production troubles did apparently hamper Blood Rage early on, with the film not receiving any distribution until a few years after shooting wrapped. This feeling of hodgepodge is readily apparent throughout the film’s fast ‘n loose narrative, but again, Blood Rage manages to remain superbly entertaining in spite of, or perhaps because of these flaws.
One element of the film which truly does stand out as excellent is the throbbing synthesizer score of Shock Waves composer Richard Einhorn, which frankly deserves a lovingly restored vinyl release from a company such as Death Waltz or Waxwork. Einhorn’s main theme is put to fantastic use during the film’s nicely shot opening tracking sequence-which apparently was the only scene not shot by Grissmer-and punctuates every kill with a pulsing beat and memorable melodies. Seriously, someone release this score!
The special gore effects of Ed French are also set on full display and are satisfyingly bloody and extreme to this max, likely earning Blood Rage the cult reputation its earned since its original VHS release back in the late 80s. Nearly every character is given a suitably messy send off, which-combined with Einhorn’s score-ensures that Blood Rage never drags or overstays its welcome.
Don’t look for any dark atmosphere, tense moments or true thrills here with Blood Rage. Instead, think of Grissmer’s film as a fun time capsule back to the days when the slasher genre was running out of steam, but drive-ins and movie theaters still saw fit to cram these goofy body count also-rans onto the screen, in the hopes of squeezing out a few more dollars from a very profitable genre cow.
Arrow Video continues their Criterion-level restoration of genre cinema with a presentation which is, frankly, more than Blood Rage deserves. The company presents the film in a three disc Blu-Ray and DVD combo set which combines not only the uncut Blood Rage print of the film (although the title card reads, imaginatively enough, “Slasher”), as well as the edited-for-T.V. version of the film, Nightmare at Shadow Woods. What’s even more impressive is that Arrow has even assembled a composite cut of BOTH films, edited together to include the deleted dialogue and character exposition scenes of Nightmare with the uncut gore scenes of Slasher to create what is, essentially, the definitive version of Blood Rage.
The Blu-Ray itself, again, looks better than anyone likely imagined Blood Rage to look, particularly when compared to its fuzzy VHS release on the Prism label. Although there are instances where the print fluctuates a bit where obvious corrections were made to the original damage, Blood Rage is bright, vibrant and possessing of nicely rendered skin tones. It’s doubtful that this film has looked anywhere near this good, not even dating back to its original run.
The audio is equally strong, with all of the garbled dialogue and line flubs painfully obvious to the viewer, while Einhorn’s killer Casio resonates from the speakers with nostalgic joy. The extras section is also a joy unto itself, as Arrow and Red Shirt Pictures deliver their usual cavalcade of bonus content. Interviews with Mark Soper, Louise Lasser and producer Marianne Kanter are all fun to watch, while Ed French’s look back at his special effects work is equally interesting, particularly given his current resume, which includes the Netflix series House of Cards.
There’s also a brief chat with actor Ted Raimi, whose first acting role was in Blood Rage, a return to the shooting locations of the film, and a commentary track with Grissmer. This track is sadly not as revealing as it probably could’ve been, as the director seems a bit bored and/or reserved when it comes to his recollections of the film. It isn’t the most exciting of conversations, and it often seems as if the Arrow moderator is pulling teeth to get anything really interesting from Grissmer. Still, this is a minor complaint when compared to the wealth of extra content Arrow has assembled here to celebrate (?) this little seen, but highly enjoyable slasher obscurity from the vault.