Arrow Video: Blood Rage (1987) - Reviewed

Images Courtesy of Arrow Films
Ten years after director John Grissmer’s only other film Scalpel and predating what would or would not become Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving for decades, the filmmaker’s short-lived career capped itself off with the 1987 Thanksgiving set slasher horror film Blood Rage which saw itself facing distribution delays before being heavily recut and retitled for theatrical release.  Made in 1983 but unreleased for another four years before facing heavy cuts to appease the censors and title card changes including but not limited to Slasher and Nightmare at Shadow Woods, this tightly bound dose of slasher movie madness and mayhem comes to Arrow Video in a deluxe edition featuring the edited theatrical version and the complete unedited version VHS buyers came to know and love.  For being one of the few official Thanksgiving slasher movies, Blood Rage is one of the very best examples of the slasher subgenre yet produced!

One night at the local drive in, identical twin brothers Todd and Terry wander about the theater parking lot and spy on a young couple having sex.  Terry’s only logical response to such activities is to take an axe to the illicit lovers’ heads before pinning the crime on his brother Todd who takes the fall and is institutionalized by his mother Maddy (Louise Lasser from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) while Terry roams free.  A decade later, the beleaguered mother and family try to reunite for a nice Thanksgiving dinner when news breaks that Todd has escaped the institution, putting the family on guard.  Unbeknownst to Maddy and crew, the killer may already be within their midst and soon, courtesy of Terminator 2 makeup effects artist Ed French, the brutally violent and creatively gruesome slashings begin.

Soaked in gallons of crimson, grisly gore and some of the most imaginative death scenes in slasher movie memory (a doctor’s head split in half replete with fresh brain halves visible), Blood Rage is a startling, sometimes madcap exercise in blood bathing.  Chock full of graphic sex and nudity followed by the long-awaited slayings, a snarky sense of humor, a raging firestorm of an electronic soundtrack by Don’t Go in the House and Eyes of a Stranger composer Richard Einhorn and lush camerawork by Natural Enemies cinematographer Richard E. Brooks, audiovisually Blood Rage is simultaneously angry and deliriously tongue-in-cheek.  For being ostensibly a disposable slasher, there’s also a wealth of surprises amid the horror tropes including but not limited to a recurring thread involving Maddy steadily slipping into madness replete with her eating raw Thanksgiving dinner on the kitchen floor.
Featuring a splendidly nutty performance from Louise Lasser, Mark Soper playing both twins in adult form while creating two distinctly different characters, an early appearance by Ted Raimi as a condoms dealer and coproducer Marianne Kanter who gets one of the film’s most memorably nasty deaths, the ensemble horror slasher piece is surprisingly well acted with believable people and not just throwaway stock characters to be slaughtered.  Mostly though this is Mark Soper’s show playing the twins’ personalities to realistic effect so you’re able to differentiate them despite the victims’ ease in confusing the two.

As aforementioned, the film was heavily censored down to achieve an acceptable R rating despite clearly being made for unrated horror heaven.  While going on VHS uncut in the version fans know and love, it was spotty for years after appearing on DVD again in censored form while fans hastily tried to reedit their own homemade version of the DVD with the VHS snippets.  Thankfully the good folks at Arrow Video have righted that wrong and made the original uncensored version fully available in a new 2K restoration.  Seen now, Blood Rage is one of the quintessential ultraviolent 80s slasher epics, a short and sweet home run with a crimson soaked machete, a film that could’ve been just another slasher but winds up being among the best.  The kind of horror film you’ll be inclined to pick up the soundtrack album for after seeing it, Blood Rage like its opening scene is in the spirit of drive-in grindhouse joy where blood invariably will splatter on your popcorn literally and figuratively.

--Andrew Kotwicki