Made in 1983 but only surfacing in 1987, Blood Rage – variously known in different incarnations as Nightmare in Shadow Wood and Slasher – has never received a UK home entertainment release before. But beware; if you allow this silly, badly-acted, poorly-directed, ludicrously-dated piece of old toot into your home, the likelihood is you’ll find it far from entertaining. Often regarded as an early video nasty, Blood Rage is nasty for all sorts of reasons but precious few of them are due to its blood and guts content.
We open at a drive-in in 1974 where two young boys – Todd and Terry – sneak out of the back of their parents’ car while Mum and Dad indulge in a spot of canoodling in the front seat. Terry decides to bury an axe in the face of another movie patron but makes it look as if Todd is the murdering lunatic. Ten years later and as the family gather together for a tasty Thanksgiving blow-out, news reaches them that Todd has escaped from the mental institution he’s been kept in for the last decade. Sure enough, Todd turns up in their midst and the blood starts to flow; but is Todd quite who everyone thinks he is and is the real killer actually closer to home?
Arrow have hurled a ton of extras and special features at this over-generous three-disc release (forgetting, it seems, that it’s scientifically impossible to polish a turd) but the one thing the film really needs is a laughter track. Blood Rage may have terrified a generation back in the 1980s (although we rather doubt it), but we’re made of sterner stuff today and it’s more likely to tickle a modern audience’s funny bone than send them shrieking for the safety of the back of the sofa. The violence is broad, cartoonish and deeply unscary and unconvincing, the whole thing is overlit where a few handy shadows might have helped its cause but the entire enterprise is scuppered by uniformly appalling acting by a cast who really should never have been allowed to step in front of a camera. Despite her fairly high TV profile at the time, Louise Lasseter is laughably bad as the boys’ hysterical mother Maddy, who often appears to be making up her own dialogue and the rest of the cast of unknown no-hopers are little better and often a bit worse. The only halfway decent performance comes from Mark Soper, who plays both of the older boys and occasionally convinces as a cold, arrogant, psychopathic killer.
Comedy value aside, there’s little to recommend here. Poor pacing renders a couple of potentially exciting cat-and-mouse sequences dull and redundant, and a frantic poolside shoot-out denouement lacks any tension because it’s so badly directed and performed. Worth a look for a few sniggers only (dig those crazy mullets and the rat-tat-tat 1980s synthesiser score), Blood Rage is a monumental misfire and no amount of name-changes can salvage anything of worth from this clumsy horror show of the very worst kind.
Special Features: Three versions of the film / Director commentary / Mark Soper interview / Marianne Kanter interview / Louise Lasser interview / FX supervisor interview / Ted Raimi interview / Locations feature / Alternate titles / Reversible sleeve / Subtitles / Collector’s booklet.
BLOOD RAGE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JOHN GRISSMER / SCREENPLAY: BRUCE RUBIN / STARRING: LOUISE LASSER, MARK SOPER, JULIE GORDON, JAMES FARRELL, MARIANNE KANTER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW