Just in thyme for your Thanksgiving film feast, Arrow Video via MVD Visual strikes again with the perfectly themed (and definitely NOT for the whole family!) horror flick, 1983’s Blood Rage. If you’re a horror film fan who’s scratching your head raw and thinking out loud “Hey, I never heard of this one before!”, well… you’re not incorrect there, pal. Actually, director John Grissmer’s film wasn’t released in that year or even with that particular title. It came in on the tail end of the slasher flick craze and seemed to be deemed too violent for a genre that had gotten “tamer” over the course of the early 80’s.
The film finally hit theaters in 1987 as a heavily edited but still “R” rated version with the more generic title NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS, which is thankfully included in this special edition package along with a third cut of the film that combines footage from both versions into a big, bloody meal. And if it’s special features you want, Arrow’s got you well covered with a slew of features including interviews with cast members (Louise Lasser, Mark Soper), visual effects artist Ed French, and producer/actress Marianne Kanter on how this one came together and how she ended up in the film as a victim of one of the more outrageously icky cinematic murders of that era. A high body count, an overall offbeat tone, plenty of cheesy synth tunes tickling your eardrums and some solid and yucky gore effects from Ed French make this one a real treat.
Louise Lasser (yep, of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” fame) has a key role in the film as the Florida mother of twin teen boys Terry and Todd (both played by Mark Soper), one of whom is a psychotic murderer that framed the other twin ten years earlier for a killing at a local drive-in, getting him locked away in an institution which he manages to escape from in time for that big turkey dinner. The film gets some mileage from confusion among some characters who’ve only seen one of the twins thinking Todd is Terry (or is it Terry is Todd?) and a new set of horrific killings ensue as yet again, one brother tries to frame the other.
(Psst! Hey! Want some NSFW video to ogle? Well, here you go!)
(Thanks, Horrorscreams Videovault!)
While Soper’s creepy performance as the twins is the thing to watch (“It’s NOT Cranberry sauce!”), it’s Lasser’s even more unhinged mom Maddy that makes the film. She plays Maddy as completely loopy and somewhat (okay, VERY) in denial that one of her kids is chopping up the area’s residents with relish. It’s quite a sight to see Maddy plopped down in front of her open fridge feasting on leftovers or vacuuming a room while trying to hold a conversation. As the bodies pile up (there are some really creative murders here thanks to French’s effects work), the twins eventually end up reunited with Maddy who needs to make a little decision or two that makes for a kick in the head of a finale.
While not a “masterpiece”, the amount of disturbing effects work, genre expected nudity and sex scenes and general mix of quirky and vile behavior makes Blood Rage a pretty solid slasher film. It goes to the usual places and then steps over the line, drops its pants and moons you with a hanging severed head here, a re-posed dead man with a hand missing and his head split open there and a few other shots where you’ll certainly get more than your money’s worth. The film has a sort of mean-spirited sense of humor thanks to Soper making his murdering ways so cold and matter of fact. But as he notes in his interview, a ton of fun was had on set whenever any special effects were involved.
As noted, the set contains not only the uncut and restored Blood Rage (in a nice 2K print that has a bit of grain here and there), but you get two versions of NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS just so you can compare all three at your leisure. The theatrical cut chops out or down the gorier effects while keeping the nudity intact and the extra version adds in all the gore and extended nude scenes just so you see everything. As that third version is a composite cut from a few sources, the quality is all over the map. That said, you’ll most likely have watched the uncut version first (as well you should), so what’s here is more of a faux “director’s cut” of sorts.
The special features also include a great interview with Ed French on how he got the job and his determination to not just do post-murder visuals, but figure out ways to pull off some extreme kills on camera using old and new tricks. There’s a three minute interview with Ted Raimi (brother of Sam Raimi) where he talks about how he got his brief cameo in the movie (it was his first film) and how it’s all been downhill from there (or so he jokes at the end). The Marianne Kanter interview is quite interesting because she notes that at one point John Grissmer quit the film due to assorted disagreements and she took over that position briefly (her name appears on a clapboard at one point) before turning the job over to the main cameraman who also failed at that job. Eventually, Grissmer cooled off and came back on board to complete the job. Kanter also discusses raising money for the film’s production and has some handy advice for anyone trying to do this the old-fashioned way.
Overall, Blood Rageis another Arrow Video release that deserves a buy, particularly if you’re a fan of 80’s slasher film and want to see one that not a lot of people recall or have previously only seen one version of. Those gore effects may not be what you’d call “state of the art” by today’s standards, but a few still stand out as pretty amazing shocks the first time you see them. The edited version still has some bite to it, but I’d bet you a two-pronged fork to the neck it’s in its uncut form where this one will find it’s audience. Go grab this for your own Turkey Day surprise if you’re not going to be glued to the tube rooting for some football team (*yawn*). No matter how much turkey you’ve had, I’d bet you a slice of mom’s apple pie that this flick will keep your eyes wide open just so they catch ever last drop of bloody goodness.