Welcome back, dear readers. It’s been a while since I visited the Junk Drawer; but since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought that I would share a real special film for you today. When you think Thanksgiving, you think family gatherings, too much food, football, and slasher films. Well, maybe not the last thing, but over the years there have been a few: Home Sweet Home (1981), and Thankskilling (2009) to name a couple, but today I am going to review Blood Rage, a.k.a. Nightmare at Shadow Woods, a.k.a. Slasher (1987).
Blood Rage tells the story of Todd and Terry (Mark Soper), twin brothers, one of whom is a normal adjusted human being and the other who is a raging psychopath. The movie opens with our twins at eleven years-old at the local Drive-In theater with their mother Maddy (Louise Lasser of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fame) and father. Thinking that the two boys are asleep, Mom and Dad decide that it might be a good idea to try and make another sibling; and while they are occupied, the twins leave the car. As Todd and Terry wander about the Drive-In, Terry becomes more and more agitated that there are so many people having sex, leading him to eventually grab a hatchet and kill a teenage boy. Then, he places the hatchet in Todd’s hands, wipes blood on Todd’s face, and blames the whole incident on him. Naturally, everyone believes the story, and Todd is institutionalized.
Flash forward 10 years, and Terry, still living with mom in a community named Shadow Woods, has been living a normal life, presumably. Sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, he is given two pieces of information: 1. His mom is getting remarried. 2. His brother Todd has escaped from the mental institution where he has resided for the last decade. The first piece of information flips the “crazy” switch to the “on” setting within Terry, and the second piece of information makes him think that he can pin his new rash of violence again on Todd. And what a rash of killings there is! Instead of one killing, Terry racks up eight throughout the course of the film.
Made during the height of the “slasher” craze of the 80s, Blood Rage sports some pretty good makeup effects from Ed French (who has gone on to a very successful career working on movies such as Terminator 2 (1991), Star Trek VI: Undiscovered Country (1991), and the new HBO Series, Westworld. This is a “bad” movie, one of those “so bad it’s good” type of films. The budget was blown on the makeup effects and securing Louise Lasser, so other aspects of the film suffer, like well… everything else. At the same time, Mark Soper’s performance as Todd/Terry is worth the price of admission, alternating between over-the-top as Terry, and “little boy lost” as Todd. The 80s synth soundtrack is also quite good if a bit repetitive. Blood Rage is a nice little piece of 80s cheese; and hey, the fact that it takes place during Thanksgiving is a complete throw-away, but it is definitely worth the watch for the gore effects. So sit down, grab a turkey leg, and dig into Blood Rage!
USA/C-82 minutes/Dir: John Grissmer/Wr: Bruce Rubin (as Richard Lamden)/Cast: 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, Bill Cakmis, Keith Hall, Ross Hall, Lauren Myers, Amanda Ball, Matthew Carlisle, Kevin Williams
If You Like: Fans of other holiday slasher flicks, such as Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), My Bloody Valentine (1981), and April Fools Day (1986) may need to add a Thanksgiving movie to their rotation.
Video: I watched the Arrow Video (the Criterion of genre films) release of
Blood Rage which is presented on a High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and has a whole slew of “side dishes” to enjoy with your turkey, including:
- A brand new 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version, transferred from the camera negative and featuring the original title card, Slasher.
- Audio commentary with director John Grissmer
- Both Sides of the Camera: an interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter
- Double Jeopardy: an interview with Mark Soper
- Jeez, Louise: an interview with actress Louise Lasser
- Man Behind the Mayhem: an interview with special make-up effects creator Ed French
- Three Minutes with Ted Raimi: an interview with actor of Ted Raimi
- Return to Shadow Woods: featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida
- Alternate opening titles
- A motion still gallery, featuring rare behind-the-scenes make-up photos
- Nightmare at Shadow Woods: the re-edited 1987 theatrical release with cut footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version
- An alternate composite cut of the feature, combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions
- Never before seen outtakes
Streaming: At the writing of this review, Blood Rage is not available to stream.
More to explore: There are so many 80s horror/slasher films out there, but if you are looking for some of the more off-the-beaten-path ones, you can always enjoy
The Mutilator (1984), also available from Arrow, and
Blood Beach (1980).
Fun Fact: Ted Raimi, brother to Sam Raimi, is in the first five minutes of the film, portraying a man selling condoms in the Drive-In bathroom.
For More Info: If you want to know more about the slasher genre, check out
The Slasher Movie Book by J.A. Kerswell, which delves into the beginning of the genre and the overall effect it has had on the world of cinema.