Monday, 30 November 2015

blood rage

blood rage is a film that’s so bad it’s really hard to recommend, except for the fact that i kind of loved it.

the film opens at a drive-in where twin boys todd and terry sneak out of their mother’s car, steal an axe from the back of a pick-up truck then butcher an unsuspecting young man. ten years later, terry is the most popular kid in the neighbourhood while todd is still locked up in a psychiatric hospital for the murder. when todd escapes it’s not long before the bodies start piling up at the apartment complex where terry lives with his mother.

like any great slasher it’s all about the kills, and blood rage has some great ones. from the first scene where the guy at the drive-in is hacked to pieces with an axe to the doctor who is cut in two, no limb is safe in this film. the kills ramp up quickly, with nearly half a dozen characters losing their lives as well as various body parts within the first half an hour. that’s kind of where the problems start.

to say that blood rage lacks subtlety isn’t quite enough; whatever the opposite of subtext is, this film is full of it. this is a shame, because the idea that we as an audience don’t know which twin is the killer could have been really effective. instead, we are shown very early on that terry has a big problem with his mother having a relationship with anyone other than him, so we immediately know we’re in pseudo norman bates territory, and that terry is the killer. in case we have any doubts, terry kills his mother’s boyfriend in the very next scene, amputating his hand. we’re less than twenty minutes in all hope of intrigue has been butchered as brutally as terry's victims.

while it is kind of refreshing to watch a film this determined to not bury the lead, it causes major problems later on. after the blood-drenched first act, the film slows to a snails pace as the unlikable survivors, now only a handful of them left, trip over each other trying to figure what’s going on whilst occasionally stopping to fuck or play videogames, like what teenagers do. meanwhile, terry and todds’ mother drinks herself into a nervous breakdown. at this point it almost loses the all-important so-bad-it’s-good quality, but luckily there is some truly awful dialogue to make up for it. also, while mark soper does a decent enough job as a saturday morning cartoon serial killer, the other performances are either overblown or just bad. the only other thing that’s really great about the film is the synth score.

that said, i enjoyed every minute of blood rage, even the dull parts. when i was little my dad was obsessed with car boot sales. he’d always come home with these weird, knock-off films on vhs that my brother and i had never heard of then and have never come across since. we loved the horror films in particular. there seemed to have been an infinite number of slasher films released in the 80s and no matter how many times i thought i’d seen them all, my dad would always manage to find another. these are films that maybe a handful of people saw at the time they were released and perhaps deserve to have been forgotten, so the fact that we were there watching them as a family made it feel like kind of a unique experience. watching blood rage gave me that warm, cosy feeling of watching teenagers being hacked up on vhs with my dad and my brother. i don’t know if that’s something anyone else will relate to, or that other people have versions of, but it certainly helped me enjoy a film that is very difficult to enjoy otherwise.

what is cool is that arrow have put together an exhaustive and incredibly thorough selection of special features that even includes an interview with ted raimi, who is in the film for all of twenty seconds. it is truly fascinating to delve into the thought process behind a film like this and to find out more about the people who made it. special features on bad films are way more interesting than those on good films anyway, so giving blood rage such a wealth of extras is a real selling point.

less appealing is the theatrical cut, titled nightmare at shadow woods. deleted scenes restored from a 35mm print are re-inserted into the film, whilst other moments, including some of the more violent kills, are cut. there’s an overlong and completely unnecessary swimming pool scene that adds some redundant exposition and sets up a baby that appears later, and some extended moments to other scenes that don’t add much either but otherwise there's nothing new of note. there’s also a composite cut on the disc that takes the best elements of both versions, should you wish to watch the film three times. to be honest, the alternate cut would only really be of interest if you had seen the film in this form originally, but here it feels so inferior to the uncut version that it adds little value.

as much as i enjoyed watching blood rage, it is difficult for me to recommend it as a film, but i would recommend it as a curiosity. and if you’ve ever wondered how something like this got made and what was going through the minds of the people making it when they stepped onto set each day, the abundance of extras will certainly answer those questions.

blood rage is available now on dvd and blu-ray from arrow video

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