October Horrorshow: Blood Rage

What a splatterific, nonsensical mess of a horror flick. I loved it.

Blood Rage, the 1987 slasher flick spearheaded by producer Marianne Kanter, is exactly the kind of cheap and sleazy film horror junkies have come to expect from the era. The horror genre has had many golden eras, and it’s little films like Blood Rage, rather than the big franchises, that cement the 1980s as amongst the goldiest of the goldy.

Written by Bruce Rubin and directed by John Grissmer, Blood Rage tells the story of a pair of twins, one murderous, and one not so murderous.

The film opens with an intro filmed at the fabulous Midway Drive-In, located in Jacksonville, Florida (since demolished — rest in peace). There, single mom Maddy Simmons (Louise ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ Lasser) is ready to get down to some drive-in snogging with her date, while her twin boys (played by Keith and Russell Hall) sleep in the back of the family truckster. But, the precocious youths have other ideas, and sneak out the back for some shenanigans.

Opportunities at the drive-in abound, as it seems everyone is there to get nekkid and have sex to the dulcet tones of a classic genre flick. The two boys sneak around the lot, and young Terry, hatchet in hand, decides to murder one of the young lovers in grisly fashion. He’s just a kid, but he’s aware enough of what he did to place the hatchet in his brother, Todd’s, hands, and smear him with blood so that Todd takes the blame and is shipped off to an asylum.

Fast forward ten years. Terry is in college, while Todd (both characters now played by Mark Soper) is still locked in the nuthouse, convinced that it was he that committed the murder and not Terry. Maddy, meanwhile, still visits her son regularly, but all her hopes and dreams have been placed on Terry’s future. However, ten years of incarceration and therapy have borne fruit. Todd knows that he is innocent of the murder, Blood Rage movie posterleading to him escaping the asylum and making his way back home for…what, exactly, isn’t clear. I suppose it’s realistic to expect that Todd would not have any sort of concrete plan for his actions, considering where he’s been and his state of mind, but failing to think ahead is something of a hallmark for this flick.

The evil twin trope is a common conceit in storytelling. In this film, it’s only used effectively in the introduction. Afterwards, viewers are aware that there are two Simmons brothers. One is an insane killer, and one is not. But, any plot value is wasted by the fact Todd remains in the shadows in this film all the way until denouement. There’s never much of a moment where he has to convince someone in authority that, in chasing down Todd, they are after the wrong guy. Terry is able to go on his killing spree, spurred by learning of Todd’s escape, with impunity for the majority of the film. The killer twin aspect of the plot is of so little importance to how Grissmer constructed this film that it could have been done away with entirely with little to no impact on the final product.

The plot of this film, then, is a throwaway. The film lives and dies on the killing. And there is a lovely amount of bloody gore to satisfy we horror film bloodhounds. The effects aren’t the most realistic one will see. But they do sit in that perfect sweet spot between cartoonish and realistic — that place where horror fans can see what happens on screen and still live with themselves.

There are dismemberments, slicing, dicing, gunshots, and much else. The gore, in fact, is essential, as the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to its billing.

That is, with the exception of Louise Lasser. Her character might be the nuttiest in a film that features some nuts. Her performance is focused almost entirely inwards, dealing with her own demons while one of her sons is out there piling up bodies. It’s a method performance, bizarre in all the right places, and totally unbelievable, until one tries to picture anyone else in the role. It’s a tour de force performance in nervous breakdowns, which Lasser had experience with.

For his part(s), Soper was more than competent. He really does seem to portray two different people. I only wish that Kanter had decided to set this up for a sequel.

I may have dug this movie quite a lot, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of the Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index. It’s still a dog. But a good one, that will play fetch and actually bring back the ball. Blood Rage displaces Freejack at #119. Check it out.

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