Blood Rage Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by John Grissmer
Written by Richard Lamden
1987, 84 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on December 15th, 2015
Louise Lasser as Maddy
Mark Soper as Todd/ Terry
Marianne Kanter as Dr. Berman
Julie Gordon as Karen
James Farrell as Artie
William Fuller as Brad
Gerry Lou as Beth
Jayne Bentzen as Julie
Maddy is a single mother raising twin sons Todd and Terry, and hoping to win the heart of a strong father figure to unite the family. She does not have the best luck on the dating scene and making matters worse, her last outing ended in murder. The boys had joined her on a date to the local drive-in cinema and everything was going just swell until Todd went crazy and killed a random movie-goer with a hatchet to the face. What Maddy doesn’t know, however, is that Terry actually committed the crime and blamed it on his catatonic twin. Years later, Terry and Maddy are living happily at the Shadow Woods apartment community and are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends. Maddy drops the bombshell that she is getting engaged to the complex manager and this sets Terry off on a new bloody rampage. Coincidentally, Todd has escaped from the mental hospital this same day and is looking to reunite with the family and bring his homicidal brother to justice.
Blood Rage (aka Complex, aka Slasher, aka Nightmare at Shadow Woods) was shot in 1983, but not released until 1987 after suffering severe edits from the MPAA Ratings Board. Following a general dismissal by audiences and a sea of name changes that made it hard to identify over the years, the film disappeared into obscurity. Over the next three decades, a cult following emerged thanks in part to the VHS release and occasional late-night cable television screenings. Audiences that managed to catch it were treated to a bizarre tale of a hysterical woman having a breakdown on Thanksgiving, trying to figure out how to operate a telephone while drinking and cleaning her apartment. The surrounding characters are all very horny thirty-year-old “students” and tenants at the complex lining up to be slaughtered. Once both twins are on the property, none of their friends or even their own mother can tell them apart!
Louise Lasser stars as Maddy, the worst mother in Florida, and that is saying a lot. Lasser reportedly brought an acting coach on set with her and was very dedicated to her performance, which makes it all the more bizarre to see just how wonderfully-terrible she is in the film. Setting new standards for scenery chewing and breaking records for going over the top, Lasser gives everything she’s got and stays at her emotional peak throughout. This leads to several moments of unintended laughter as her character screams all dialogue, erratically cleans the apartment and harasses the telephone operator for hours to connect her call to a man residing three doors down from her. Mark Soper does all the heavy lifting as the unhinged twins Terry and Todd, identifiable by their wardrobe, hairstyle and level of self-confidence. He really is fun to watch and is clearly enjoying himself in the dual role. The rest of the cast range from passable to terrible, but I love them all.
Written by Bruce Rubin (Zapped) under the alias Richard Lamden, the movie feels like a bizarre play or maybe a bad soap opera filled with ridiculous dialogue and – in the restored cut – fantastically brutal murder scenes. Director John Grissmer (Scalpel) does a competent job with the material, but is better suited to making made-for-television movies for drug-addled viewers. When in doubt, the only direction seems to be “more”; as in more blood, more emotion, more awkward staring, more flexing. This dark comedy is a blast whether it intended to be funny or not and is filled with endless amounts of quotable lines. I believe everyone’s intentions to make a terrifying picture were sincere, but goddamn this flick is outrageous. Bad actors reciting terrible dialogue is always a win-win, and this film really delivers. Blood Rage truly is a forgotten gem that deserves to be screened every Thanksgiving, but remember friends, when the red stuff flows... “That’s not cranberry sauce!”
Video and Audio:
This uncut special edition of Blood Rage comes with an all new 2K restoration courtesy of Arrow Films and the transfer is, quite simply, stunning. Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with unbelievably rich colors and solid black levels, this transfer is certain to please all eyes. The highly censored Nightmare at Shadow Woods has also been restored using an aged 35mm print source, and looks quite satisfying considering that all previous releases have been murky at best. Anyone familiar with this picture is in for nothing short of a revelation with this new image quality.
The English LPCM 2.0 audio mix is everything it needs to be. Nothing too showy and the track is primarily front-heavy. Dialogue levels remain solid and free from distortion and the wacky soundtrack has never sounded better.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Given the checkered history of this release, there are three (!) versions of the film included in this release. The unrated edition (79 minutes) that includes all of the gore; the censored theatrical cut (74 minutes) featuring zero bloodshed but additional dialogue; and a composite cut (85 minutes) that combines elements from both for one ultimate version for the first time. Disc 1 in this set contains the unrated edition of the film.
Director John Grissmer provides an audio commentary over the unrated version joined by John A. Dalley, a co-owner of the rights to the film. The track is uneven and the memories a bit murky when compared to other people’s recollections on this disc. Obviously there are some nice moments, but by glossing over the more challenging aspects of the production, the overall experience is a bit of a letdown.
In Both Sides of the Camera (10 minutes), producer/ actress Marianne Kanter is more forthright when discussing her involvement in getting the film made, the friction between the director and leading lady, and how she ended up appearing on screen as the psychiatrist. It would have been nice to hear her in the room with Grissmer for his audio commentary.
Mark Soper finally gets to share his stories of playing crazed twins Todd and Terry in Double Jeopardy (11 minutes), and they are well worth the wait. Soper discusses how he approached the roles, what it was like working with others on set and even repeats some favorite bits of dialogue. I always enjoy hearing how surprised actors are to learn years later that they have fans for what they once dismissed as a throwaway film.
Jeez, Louise (11 minutes) catches up with actress Louise Lasser, who is not a fan of horror films and has an aversion to graphic violence, but is happy to talk about this and other projects of her career. The interview is a little quiet but worth checking out and features the best title card of all the supplements.
Special make-up effects artist Ed French discusses his work designing the numerous kill scenes in the segment Man Behind the Mayhem (13 minutes). French is a likeable guy who seems genuinely happy to talk about his work and I am happy the gory payoff has finally been restored for audiences to see.
Film historian Ed Tucker guides viewers on a contemporary tour of the original shooting locations in Jacksonville, Florida, in the fun piece titled Return to Shadow Woods (6 minutes).
3 Minutes with Ted Raimi is a self-explanatory piece in which the genre favorite discusses how he got his first acting gig.
As stated earlier, this movie was released under several different names and none of the sources used here for the multiple versions included on this disc are called Blood Rage. Alternate opening titles featuring the Blood Rage credit are included for completists, but the image is sourced from a VHS master, so lower your expectations.
A photo gallery (5 minutes) provides a behind-the-scenes look at the production and focuses in part on the creation of some of the special make-up effects work.
The 1987 censored version of the film Nightmare at Shadow Woods appears on Disc 2, along with the newly commissioned composite cut.
Almost half an hour of silent outtakes (27 minutes) offers an on-set look at the production. This material is obviously rare and is a real treat to have included.
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