THE FILM 4.5/5
“That’s not cranberry sauce!”
Twins Todd and Terry seem like sweet boys – that is, until one of them takes an axe to face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalized, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later and, as the family gathers around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped. But has the real killer in fact been in their midst all along? One thing’s for sure, there will be blood and rage!
Don’t listen to that blowhard Eli Roth. Despite his self-aggrandizing fake trailer for Thanksgiving that was sandwiched in between the two mini features that comprised Grindhouse, which he purported to be the first to exploit the previously unexploited turkey day, Blood Rage (aka Nightmare at Shadow Woods) had beaten him to the punch by roughly twenty-five years. And what a twenty-five years it’s been. Long considered an obscure title, availably only in compromised versions found on VHS and DVD releases, the true, intended, and uncut version has finally arrived courtesy of Arrow Video. And it is a sight to behold.
Blood Rage offers everything the hardcore slasher fan could possibly want: a gimmicky but forgivable premise, a charismatic but quirky killer, tremendous violence, a nice helping of T&A, and not a single unwelcome minute of stagnation. Blood Rage moves at a clip, only hanging around long enough to commit bodily mayhem against its cast before cutting to black and rolling credits.
This is the score I’ve awarded to Blood Rage. In case you’re curious, this is a half-step higher than what I’d previously given to The End of the Tour, Mr. Holmes, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, a handful of respectful, well-regarded, and in some aspects, award-worthy films. The scores awarded to them may not seem to jibe with what I’ve awarded a cheap and forgotten slasher curiosity from the 1980s. But that is the nature of film criticism. One film cannot be compared to another compared to another. One film is not less good simply because it’s striving toward a different goal. Jaws is not less of a good film because The Godfather exists. Mad Max does not pale in the majestic shadow of Mad Max: Fury Road. Blood Rage is as good at killing teenagers as Mr. Holmes is at exploring a geriatric Sherlock, or The End of the Tour is at shining a light on artistry vs. celebrity. In fact, Blood Rage is better at what it wants to do. And I love being able to say that.
Its plot, such as it is (or ain’t), is so sinfully simple and rife with logic errors that it transcends ineptness and becomes charming. A family receives word that their so-called psychotic family member has escaped an asylum and could be heading their way, but…no one cancels Thanksgiving dinner. No one cares. No one looks alarmed. Not a single person says, “Gosh, maybe we should drive our cars that work and get to safety.” Nope! There are no cars that don’t start, there are no phone lines that are cut. People just…willfully choose to stay, without concern. And it’s glorious, because someone’s HEAD gets hacked in half and you can see his entire BRAIN. That’s Blood Rage, people. That’s what you’re getting, and like a slice of pumpkin pie after a big turkey dinner, it’s delightful.
What Blood Rage gets right, effortlessly, is its willingness to be fun. The premise alone lets the audience off the hook in the sense that they’re not left wondering for the entire film just who it is behind the mask that’s cutting of everyone’s knees and faces, inevitably leading to an underwhelming conclusion bound to satisfy only a fraction of the audience. At no point is Blood Rage‘s audience left to theorize about the mysterious identity of the killer responsible for all the carnage.
It’s Terry. The one in the striped shirt. He’s…right there.
The acting’s about the caliber you might expect from a low-budget slasher film made in the early ’80s but not released until the late ’80s. It’s doable, passable, and certainly entertaining enough. Plus Ted Raimi appears as “Condom Salesman.” He has one line: “Condoms?” (I think. Memory’s hazy on this one; I think Blood Rage broke my brain.)
Maintaining the slasher film tradition of featuring one lead actor who makes you say, “Wow, he/she’s in this?”, Blood Rage features the unexpected appearance of Louise Lasser, who began her career in many of Woody Allen’s earlier films, and who most notably appeared in Requiem for a Dream as Ada, friend to Sara Goldfarb, who eventually breaks my heart as she sobs uncontrollably on a city bench. Her role hovers somewhere between normal and Mrs. Bates, suggesting that she’s mostly normal, but also a bit too…er, attached to her sons. But she plays it well, and her crazy role is just one of many crazy things that make Blood Rage so crazy good. The scene in which she sits Indian style on the kitchen floor in front of her open refrigerator and begins eating Thanksgiving leftovers with a depressed look on her face because her crazy son has escaped a lunatic asylum and may be on his way to kill her and everyone else – so seriously, what else can she do? – is the stuff of cinemafantastique.
Blood Rage is the movie that unaware slasher fans never knew they needed. Everything about it is pure and lovable – even the detestable violence and gore that our mothers would absolutely despise contains an intangible charm that’s become ingrained with this oft forgotten era of horror. For a film about a psychotic teen cutting down his friends and family with a machete in violent ways, it’s the most harmless slice of escapism yet that hails from the golden era of hack’em-up cinema. Its intentions are as innocent as the on-screen killer is murderous, but they both want the same thing: to cover everything in blood, and to make every minute of it as enjoyable as possible. And both succeed, so hard.
THE PICTURE 4.5/5
The visual presentation on hand for Blood Rage (main feature) is phenomenal. For a title as mistreated and cut to shreds over the years as this one, it’s amazing there was anything left to work with – and even more amazing is how good it looks. Created from the original camera negative, this 2K image is very solid, very stable, and in nearly pristine condition. There are no detectable screen artifacts or print damage. Much of the film is set at night, and in exteriors, but darkness/blacks are never overwhelming or crushing. Colors are strong but era-indicative. Blood sure looks good – and it better, because it’s everywhere.
THE SOUND 4/5
I am in love with this synth score by Richard Einhorn. Talk about old school. It – and everything else – sounds excellent. Dialogue is clear, clean, and well presented. There are a small instances of sibilant hiss, but nothing offensive. Ambiance excels in exterior scenes. Impact is well utilized, mostly in the form of lurching film score coinciding with jump scares. Mutilations sound icky and wet.
THE SUPPLEMENTS 4.5/5
The complete list of special features is as follows:
BLU-RAY DISC 1 & DVD – BLOOD RAGE
- 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 actor 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 Ted Raimi
- “Return to Shadow Woods” – featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida
- Alternate opening titles
- Motion still gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes make-up photos
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
- Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joseph A. Ziemba, author of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey
BLU-RAY DISC 2 – NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
- Nightmare at Shadow Woods – the re-edited 1987 theatrical cut featuring footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version
- Alternate composite cut of the feature combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions
- Never-before-seen outtakes
STUDIO: Film Limited Partnership
DISTRIBUTOR: Arrow Video
GENRE: Slasher, baby!
THEATRICAL DATE: June, 1987
VIDEO STREET DATE: November 23, 2015
VIDEO: MPEG-4 AVC; 1080p; 1.85:1
SUBTITLES: English SDH
RUN TIME: 82 mins (main feature)
DVD COPY: Yes
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD: N/A
Give me a break. This one’s a no brainer. And if you consider yourself a fan of old-school slashers, have never seen this, and are still on the fence, then give me a bigger break. Cut from the same mold as My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, Intruders, and the entire Friday the 13th franchise, Blood Rage (all three versions) need to be on your shelf. Your Thanksgivings will never be the same.
(Thanks to DVD Talk for the screen grabs.)
Arrow Films, an all-rights multi-platform distributor of feature films and TV series who specialize in releasing some of the best content from around the world to UK customers and beyond, are now providing domestic releases in North America through MVD Entertainment. Arrow’s global reputation as one of the finest labels in the world has come about through consistent high quality product and a focus on fan-based products always at its core.