November 24, 2017 Blood Rage – 30 Years Of Thanksgiving Terror
In the realm of Horror cinema, there are plenty of films based around Christmas, obviously Halloween, but how about Thanksgiving? You can probably count on one hand how many Horror flicks are Turkey Day themed. You may want to hide that hand though at threat of losing it when you look to turn on 1987’s Blood Rage, a long-forgotten Thanksgiving horror massacre.
Directed by John Grissmer (The Bride 1973, False Face 1977) and written by Bruce Rubin (Zapped! 1982, Zapped Again! 1990), under the name Richard Lamden, do not lie, even the most seasoned Horrorhound has probably not seen or heard of Blood Rage. But why? Well, one reason maybe the title of the film changed several times – first working as Complex, then Slasher, then re-cut for theatrical release as Nightmare at Shadow Woods, and finally making its way to home video under the name Blood Rage.
The funny thing about it all, after Producer Marianne Kanter (The Pawnbroker 1964, Hallucination Generation 1966) secured a large number of local film investors for the project, the film was initially shot down in Florida several years prior to finally receiving any sort of release. Finally picked up for distribution in 1987 by Film Concept Group, it received a limited theatrical run on March 29, 1987, but much like the slicing and dicing on screen, Blood Rage was heavily edited. Leaving Horror fans wanting more, a few months later, Prism Entertainment gave Blood Rage a VHS release, still heavily edited, but including a couple more gorey scenes from the original cut.
Now, 30 years later, Blood Rage is all but a forgotten footnote in ’80s Horror history. All is not lost though because thankfully Arrow Video rescued it from obscurity, releasing it on 2-Disc Special Edition DVD + Blu-ray release back on January 24, 2017. Available for the first time on DVD since the Nightmare at Shadow Woods cut was released by Legacy Films back in 2004, Arrow Video pulls out all the stops to give viewers the best possible homage to this little known Slasher gem.
First off, it is a 2K restoration of the ”hard” home video version, transferred from the camera negative while featuring the original title card Slasher. Additionally, there is an audio commentary with Grissmer, interviews with cast members including Marianne Kanter (The Pawnbroker 1964, Hallucination Generation 1966), Mark Soper (The World According to Garp 1982, White Oleander 2002), Louise Lasser (Bananas 1971, Slither 1973), Ted Raimi (The Evil Dead 1981, Darkness Rising 2017), and Makeup Effects Artist Ed French (Amityville II: The Possession 1982, Hellraiser: Bloodline 1996). What does this all mean? It means that fans of ’80s Horror can dig in, learn something new, or simply refresh old memories.
As for Blood Rage itself, you could say it is another run of the mill Slasher from the peak of the sub-genre’s popularity during the ’80s, but that would be selling it short. In summary, it begins with two twin boys, Terry and Todd Simmons, in the back of their mom’s station wagon at a drive-in movie. Naturally, everyone in surrounding cars are getting it on, including their own mom and her date, thinking the boys are asleep. Together, they sneak out the backdoor to roam around the drive-in lot until Terry snaps, heavily mutilating an assumedly innocent horny teenage guy through the open car windows with a hatchet.
From here, it shoots forward 10 years, but something strange has happened. Terry is exonerated from his murderous outburst because he framed his horrified brother Todd the night of the crime. So, what we have now is Terry (Soper), living happily with his delusional mom Mandy (Lasser) and Todd (also Soper) innocently locked up in a mental hospital. It is one big family lie and it all comes crashing down on the biggest family holiday of the year – yes, Thanksgiving!
Todd, fed up with trying to prove his innocence, flees the mental health facility to go home, but unfortunately the news of the breakout internally reignites the psycho strike in Terry all while preparing for a nice Thanksgiving feast. It is short after learning that Todd is presumably coming home for the holidays, Terry casually asks for the green beans, but soon after, casts off into his biggest massacre yet.
Yes, Terry has some carving to do of his own, first taking off the hand of his mom’s fiance Brad King (William Fuller) – remember you were warned to hide your hand. Then, it is time to off his friends and even strangers around Shadow Woods apartment complex they reside. Having a blast, Terry feels no remorse for his kills and even jokes to his buddy Artie (James Farrell: NYC 22 TV series, Made in Jersey TV series) who finds a machete dripping blood, telling him, “That’s not cranberry sauce.” Nothing like a little dark Thanksgiving humor to brighten the spirit.
All in all, Blood Rage has all the elements of a typical ’80s Slasher – plenty of gore, some T&A, and a killer synth soundtrack. Now, as stated, it would be easy to write it off as just another film to throw on the pile of slice ’em and dice ’em flicks, but look a little closer, Blood Rage is a little more. In fact, perhaps the biggest tragedy of it all is Todd and Terry’s completely disillusioned mother. This woman is slightly unstable to be kind. Nevermind she is living with a psychopath, she denies anything at all even happened, obsessed with creating his rosey, false version of reality. Beneath the surface, is this a case of favoring one child over the other? Like it or not, there are parents out there that will look to protect one child over the other, no matter how bad of an apple they truly are. The character of Mandy is the definition of such, mistaking Todd for Terry, even down to the very final scene!
Is Blood Rage a Slasher? Well of course it is, but it is more a telling tale of mistaken identity and how dysfunctional some families can truly be. That is why it has more than meets the eye for an ’80s Slasher. Now, if you prefer keeping feelings on the surface, Blood Rage is still filled with plenty of gorey practical effects and it is a blessing most of them have been restored on Arrow Video’s 2017 release. The work of the aforementioned Ed French, who would go on to work on such blockbusters as 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the bloody, dismemberment, and kills are quite inventive! Currently living in an era where CGI dominates film effects, watching French’s work come to life in Blood Rage will make the viewing experience at least worthwhile to those who appreciate the creativity and artistic quality of practical effects.
In hindsight, Blood Rage more than likely could have garnered much more attention back in 1987 had it been marketed properly. First off, the theatrical run was too limited and scenes were cut too heavily. More importantly, the distribution company should have been brave enough to release the film not in the spring, but around Thanksgiving!
As mentioned, there are few Horror flicks that are centered around Thanksgiving, and Blood Rage’s initial release should have capitalized on that. So breakout those Thanksgiving leftovers and forget the Black Friday shopping craze, instead dig into Blood Rage, a horrific holiday tradition that should last for another 30 years.