Blood Rage!

That’s NOT cranberry sauce!

BLOOD RAGE (1983)

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Back in 1974, a single mom named Maddie Simmons and her new boyfriend decide to bundle up Maddie’s twin boys Terry and Todd into the back of his station wagon and settle in for a cozy night out at the Route 35 Drive-In. The adults hope the kids will fall asleep before intermission, leaving them alone in the front seat to enjoy a romantic viewing of “The House That Cried Murder.” But unfortunately, for everyone at the drive-in that night, Terry woke up. That’s when the nightmare began.

Terry gets an eyeful of mommy’s make out session, and then wakes up his brother Todd to let him know “Mom is at it again.” The two of them then proceed to sneak out the back of the car undetected. Terry then does the next logical thing any normal kid his age would do, he grabs a large hatchet out of the back of nearby truck and stares at it like a goon. Then he sneaks up to another nearby car and gets himself a good long look at a meathead plowing into his plump young date in the backseat. When caught in the act and called a creep, the little monster grins, and then gives the meathead seven good whacks in the face with the hatchet, literally turning his head into sliced deli meat.

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When the inevitable chaos ensues immediately after the murder, and just before the two boys are about to be confronted by a crowd of confused witnesses and their eternally frantic mother, Terry does something even more unspeakable. He smears his victim’s blood on Todd’s face and then blames his twin brother for the murder. Todd is then rendered catatonic from shock, unable to defend himself from the false accusation, and is eventually shuffled off to an asylum for treatment.

It takes 10 long years of therapy before a doctor is finally able to break through Todd’s wall of silence. Todd is finally able to remember what really happened on that horrible night and begins professing his innocence. His therapist immediately believes him, but Todd’s mentally unstable mother Maddie is another story. She refuses to believe Terry is guilty of anything, ignores Todd’s cries to be released, and prefers to treat him like the naive child that he was all those years before the murder. She even goes as far as trying to sedate Todd with some pumpkin pie, which he winds up smearing on the walls in frustration.

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Later that night, Todd breaks out of the institution and heads home to finally confront his brother and convince his mother of his innocence. The murderous Terry had been living an seemingly normal life in freedom, and for ten long years had maintained the illusion of sanity. That illusion finally shattered at Thanksgiving dinner, when Maddie suddenly announces she is getting married again to her former boyfriend and now fiance Bob. Then the news of Todd escaping reaches the Simmons house, and Terry goes off the deep end for good. The wholesale slaughter begins with Bob getting violently hacked to pieces with a machete, then degenerates into a murderous rampage as Terry begins seducing, stalking, and slashing the neighborhood kids, while also pretending to lead the search for his “crazy” brother. Can Todd stop Terry from carving up the kids like turkeys, and will there be any leftovers?

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BLOOD RAGE is an ultra violent and campy low budget slasher flick that was shot in and around a housing development in Jacksonville FL. The film was shot in 1983, during the peak years of the 80’s slasher craze, but wasn’t released theatrically until 1987. The flick was scissored of some of its violence and re-titled “Nightmare At Shadow Woods” for the film’s run in theaters. Then the flick got a “hard” home video release with all of the gore intact under the title “Blood Rage.” That version of the film was nastier, but was also missing some scenes that were featured in the “Nightmare” theatrical version. It all gets a little confusing, and might explain why the film wasn’t a big hit in the 80’s. It kind of fell though the cracks on video and didn’t get an extended run on cable.

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I must confess I was not familiar with this one at all until finally watching the blu-ray release in 2015. The title and artwork looked familiar, but I had never previously run into this flick while rabidly collecting horror flicks, especially slasher flicks on VHS. I may have heard the title in passing online, but I had never really heard a lot of praise, especially for how gory and outrageous this flick is. And make no mistake about it, BLOOD RAGE is one of the all time great 80’s slasher flicks. I am kicking myself for not seeking this one out YEARS ago. It’s chock full of graphic violence, easily ranking as one the most bloodthirsty slasher flicks. The over the top make up and gore effects were created by the notorious madman Ed French, and people are literally hacked to pieces in this one.

I also really enjoy how original, funny, and totally off the wall and just batshit crazy this flick is. Louise Lasser is convincingly insane as the frazzled baby doll mother. Mark Soper is equally excellent in the dual starring role of Terry and Todd. He really steals the show as the psycho teen Terry. There’s some shades of Patrick Bateman in his cool, detached sense of humor. He smokes dope, romances the ladies, and drops the closest thing the film has to a tagline with his immortal catchphrase “It’s not cranberry sauce.” This flick, along with the infamous “Home Sweet Home” from 1981 were two Thanksgiving themed attempts in the 80’s to join in on the then successful holiday horror craze. I’d rank this one as one of the very best of that sub-genre, right up there with the legendary “Silent Night, Bloody Night.” Perfect holiday viewing for horror freaks: stuffed with blood and guts, and always a crowd pleaser.

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The good folks at Arrow Video released an incredible 3 disc limited edition release of BLOOD RAGE back in 2015. This release is about as definitive as could possibly be expected, and includes three different, freshly restored versions of the film: the “hard” home video version of “Blood Rage,” the 1987 “Nightmare In Shadow Woods” theatrical version, and a composite cut with all of the footage from both versions. All three are interesting, so have at it. My preference was the “hard” version. There are more bonus features than you could shake a severed limb at. The highlights include interviews with stars Louise Lasser and Mark Soper, and an interesting chat with the film’s producer Marianne Kanter, where she claims there was no market for “blood and guts slashers” in 1983, which seems like a bit of a dubious remark. There’s also a director’s commentary track, an interview with Ed French, and an extra special “three minutes with Ted Raimi.” I really can’t recommend this one highly enough. An essential slasher flick with a killer score and tons of gore, and a must have for any respectable horror collection.

PASS THE CARVING KNIFE AND KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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