Annual celebrations attract their very own horror themed movies: it’s a rule that’s been set in stone thanks to seasonal slashers such as Black Christmas, Halloween and countless others. From the obvious – that also includes everything from Happy Birthday To Me to April Fool’s Day – to the tenuous (Uncle Sam for the 4th Of July and Maniac Cop for St. Patrick’s Day), fright films seem to just love fucking up those very special times of the year. However, when casting an eye over the calendar and seeing that Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, the choice gets slightly more threadbare assuming that you want to watch something a little longer that Eli Roth’s genius Thanksgiving trailer he made for Grindhouse. However, kicking in the door like a drunken relative late for his overcooked turkey is Blood Rage, an awesomely abysmal slasher that, after falling foul of the censors after it was made in 1983 under the title of Nightmare At Shadow Woods and then getting released in 1987 with all the outlandish gore reinstated with it’s far more aggressive title (apparently no one thought to call a single film “Thankskilling” until 2008 – which surely is the mother of all missed opportunities!). Linked to the holiday only by the date and the antagonists instance on bringing up cranberry sauce numerous times, Blood Rage has nevertheless become the go to movie for horror fans despite (or more likely because of) the fact that it’s uproarious shit that plays better the drunker or more rowdy you are….
Maddy Simmons is at the drive in indulging in some heavy petting with her latest beau while her twin sons snooze away in the backseat of her car (stella parenting, Maddy – bang up job), but doesn’t notice when the angelic Terry and Todd wake up and sneak away. Terry, somewhat unhinged as his beloved mom has her tonsils sucked by some random guy, desides to take out his frustration by killing a guy with a hatchet and then blaming it all on the quieter, traumatized Todd – guess we now know who the evil twin is, huh? However, everyone else doesn’t and we jump ahead ten years to find out the Todd has been in a mental ward this entire time while Terry has been having a stellar life with his friends, who in true slasher movie fashion, are supposed to be teens but all seem to range in ages between 17 and 45. After a bizarre scene where Maddy visits Todd and a confusing voice over from his psychiatrist tells us, the audience everything is going fine, when visually it blatantly isn’t, we settle down with the Simmons and friends as they tuck into their Thanksgiving meal at their remote housing complex in Jacksonville Floria. However, atmosphere grows as thick as Maddy’s gravy when firstly she and her boyfriend drop the bomb on Terry that they’re going to get married and then get even worse when the psychologist turns up to announce that Todd has escaped. Triggering Terry faster than a Karen in a Mexican restaurant, he grabs himself a machete and goes on a suprisingly unnoticed rampage that puts everyone, even his friends, at risk of being carved up like a bloodily raw game bird – although to be fair, judging by some of the news reports I’ve seen online, this sort of thing probably happens in Florida all the time.
The best way to describe watching Blood Rage is… hmmm…. how do I put this? You know when you’re watching a film and the characters in the film are watching a slasher movie but it’s a massively trashy exaggeration of what a slasher movie is actually like? That’s Blood Rage, so feel free to bang on an extra star or two if, like me, you worship at the alter of prime cinematic crap.
The unintentional laughs found here are legion, with staggeringly incompetent filmmakers struggling to make a bad script with no money and hilarious lines constantly falling out of the mouths of… well, I don’t wanna say actors…
So where to start at this masterpiece of shit?
Chiefly, I guess, with the central performance of Louise Lasser as Maddy who, despite a glittering sitcom career and some appearances in some of Woody Allen’s earlier work (plus, she was married to him for a bit), turns in a role of bewildering insanity. Whether she was trying to accurately portray a progressive breakdown of someone who’s life had become a raging dumpster fire, or she was actually having one and they just decided to film it, I’ll never know, but watching her aimlessly emote and rave to nothing while the camera just sits there like a dead fish ends up becoming more blackly hysterical the more we cut back to her as she consumes red wine at a herculean rate and at a speed that would’ve even made Oliver Reed take her car keys. It’s an insanely raw performance put in the hands of filmmakers who obviously had no idea what to do with it and after every bloody kill we dutifully check back in with her just to see what dull chores the chattering, Lovecraftian skeletons in her head are daring each other to get her to do next. Sitting in front of the fridge, legs akimbo, stuffing her face with leftovers is one unintentionally amusing segway, as is simultaneously gulping down another glass of red while hoovering under the bed in the middle of the night before slumping onto the floor of her on hallway dead drunk. But as dubiously amazing as this all is, she really comes into her own during the painfully awkward “twist” (and by God, am I using that term loosely) where the staggeringly downbeat ending is so badly performed that I had to actually pause the film due to painful attack of hysterics.
The rest of the film somehow manages to live up to this thanks to every single character being utterly unable to react like a human being (again, is this a Florida thing?) that even taxes the strained credulity of a slasher fan. In what universe, even in Florida, would a Psychiatrist and her obviously stoned assistant wander around the woods armed with one tranquilizer gun between them looking for an escaped patient and not call the police – and how would you spend your down time after Thanksgiving dinner, a spot of midnight tennis occur to anyone? No? How about attempted sex on the diving board of a public pool?
Also, whenever any of these idiots aren’t being reduced to screaming torsos or hiding a screaming baby from a psycho by stuffing it in the cupboard of a public bathroom, they’re emitting some utter howlers when it comes to awful dialogue: “Looks like your gonna get a chance to meet the rest of the family, my psychotic brother just escaped.” Is one such A-bomb of a verbal turd, as is the casual utterance of “Nice place you have here Mr King, were you around when the Simmons kid first went wacko?” Or the image of Todd gently placing his bisected doctor’s torso back together while tearfully exclaiming “Why?”…. Shite gold, one and all.
So are their any good points? Well, yeah, actually. The rubbery but legitimately excessive gore effects by Ed French (who like producer Marianne Kanter pulls double duty in front of the camera in a cameo) are actually pretty awesome with some brutal cranial damage standing out as being particularly effective and for some reason I was legitimately surprised that only one actor played the grown up twins (I must have been too busy laughing to notice).
Anyone who desires their films to be normal, logical and even remotely professional will predictably be shit out of luck here, but those who prefer their Thanksgiving entertainment to fantastically awful will wolf Blood Rage down in one bite and still hang around for leftovers.