• Blood Rage

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: November 23rd, 2015.
    Director: John Grissmer
    Cast: Mark Soper, Louise Lasser, Ted Raimi
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    Shot in 1983 but not released until 1987 and also known as Nightmare At Shadow Woods and Slasher (the title card that appears on the transfer for this Blu-ray release), Blood Rage begins at a drive-in theater (where a young Ted Raimi sells condoms to horny teenaged boys in the men’s room!). Here a woman named Maddy (Louise Lasser) is making some face time with her boyfriend in the front seat while her two identical twin boys, Terry and Todd, are sleeping in the back. Or so she thinks. As things get hot and heavy, the boys split, grab and axe, and Terry proceeds to chop up some dude’s face while he’s in the middle of making sweet love to his lady friend. If that weren’t bad enough, he pins it on Todd!

    Ten years later and Todd (Mark Soper), having spent the last decade in a psychiatric hospital, is starting to remember what happened that night. His mother visits him on Thanksgiving but doesn’t want to hear it, doesn’t want to even think about the fact that the wrong son might have been locked away all this time. She heads home where Terry (Soper again) and her fiancé are waiting. The neighbors come over too, it’s a grand old Thanksgiving feast… except that soon they learn Todd has escaped. The bodies start piling up pretty quickly as Terry’s friends all start partying in the apartment complex, but is it Todd or is it Terry? Who is the real killer and how many will die before he can be stopped?

    The answer to that last question is… a lot. This is definitely a body count film, there are quite a few murders in it and they’re all pretty impressive in just how gooey and gory they get. The film was obviously designed from the ground up to cash in on the slasher craze that was booming in the early eighties and as such, it hits all the right notes at all the right moments. The pacing is quick, there are a few moments of legitimate suspense, ample nudity and some really vicious kills. What more could you want out of a slasher… quirky characters? A crazy mother? Odd locations? Blood Rage gives you all of those too.

    Granted, this isn’t a particularly original picture and the mystery of who the killer really is, well, it’s not a mystery at all but Blood Rage is a fun watch. Mark Soper does a good job playing both Todd and Terry. As Todd he’s sad looking, he’s confused, he’s naïve, he’s awkward around girls and he’s very much unsure of himself. Terry lets Soper take things in a different direction as he’s his brother’s polar opposite. He’s cocky, self-assured, completely confident around the ladies and a bit of a party guy. Soper handles both characters really well and there are times where you almost forget it’s the same actor playing both parts. Louise Lasser is also interesting here. Her performance is an odd one (seeing her in this movie in the first place is a little unusual) but she’s good in the role, especially once her character starts breaking down and reverting to almost a childlike state (we see this when she basically gives up, sits cross-legged in front of the refrigerator and starts eating out of it). Her features are really exaggerated in the film in strange ways, her toothy grin standing in stark contrast to her strangely exposed cleavage and her hair tied back into pigtails. She cuts a strange figure in this movie but it really wouldn’t be the same without her, especially during the film’s surprisingly dark and nihilistic conclusion.


    Blood Rage is presented in AVC encoded 1080p in a ‘Brand new 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version, transferred from the camera negative’ framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Although there are some shots that look to be in soft focus and a few others that look to be pretty much out of focus, the vast majority of the film looks really good on this release. Colors are generally pretty well reproduced and the reds in the gore scenes pop nicely. Black levels are solid, skin tones look lifelike and natural and contrast is good. Detail is pretty solid here too, outside of those aforementioned scenes with focus issues, and close up shots can be surprisingly impressive in just how much texture and fine detail they show. The disc is well authored in that there are no obvious issues with compression artifacts and the picture is quite clean, showing now serious print damage and only the occasional small white specks now and again.

    The only audio option for the feature is an LPCM 2.0 Stereo track in the film’s native English. This isn’t the world’s fanciest mix but it seems like it’s pretty true to source. The score, which is very heavy on synthesizers, sounds fine and the dialogue stays clean, clear and properly balanced. Optional English subtitles are also provided.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring director John Grissmer and Arrow Video’s Ewan Cant. This is a pretty well paced track with Grissmer talking about how he was brought on board to direct, working with the cast on location, the different locations that were used for the shoot, his thoughts on the effectiveness of some of the effects pieces and the performances, and how and why there came to be a couple of different titles for the picture.

    From there we move on to a load of featurettes, starting with Both Sides Of The Camera which is an interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter (she’s the one who gets ripped in half in the woods!). She talks about how she wasn’t originally supposed to appear in the movie but how she wound up playing the small but memorable part and also talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew, her role as a producer, the locations and more. In Double Jeopardy we find an interview with actor Mark Soper who talks about playing the dual role in the film, his thoughts on horror films and what makes this one so memorable, how much fun he had working on this (his first feature) and how he got into acting to begin with. Jeez, Louise! gets actress Louise Lasser in front of the camera to talk about her early days working with directors like Woody Allen, her work on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and then, of course, her work in Blood Rage including her thoughts on the film and working alongside the cast and crew. Man Behind the Mayhem is an interview with special make-up effects creator Ed French where he talks about putting together some of the film’s memorable gore scenes while Three Minutes With Ted Raimi is exactly that: a quick interview with the actor who talks about how he landed his quick but memorable role in this picture, his first proper feature film credit.

    The disc also includes a segment called Return To Shadow Woods where he head to Jacksonville, Florida to visit the locations and, in doing so, compare them now to how they appeared in the feature. The apartment complex that was the main location hasn’t changed all that much but the exterior of the mental hospital is quite different as are some of the other places that the cast and crew shot at during this production. Rounding out the extras on disc one are a still gallery of behind the scenes photos and an alternate opening title sequence.

    The limited edition version of this release also includes a second Blu-ray release that has some pretty great supplements on it, mainly the re-edited 1987 cut of the film under the Nightmare At Shadow Woods title that features a fair bit of footage that’s not in the Slasher/Blood Rage home video version of the movie. Differences in this version include some noticeable trims to the stronger gore scenes but also the addition of some dialogue scenes and character development scenes including a fairly important part where the neighbors talk amongst themselves about Todd’s escape and relationship with Terry. If that weren’t enough, Arrow have also gone ahead and provided an alternate composite version of the movie that puts together all of the footage from both versions to create the longest possible cut of the film. More gore! More nudity! More dialogue! It’s pretty great to have the option to watch it this way, actually. There’s some obvious differences in quality when the alternate footage from the Nightmare version of the movie is cut into the restored version of the Blood Rage cut but it’s all more than watchable and given that the Nightmare and composite variants use the restored Blood Rage footage whenever possible, it’s not such a big deal. LPCM tracks are provided for these versions as well.

    This second disc also includes a selection of outtakes, over twenty-six minutes of material here – it’s interesting to see but presented very much ‘as is’ so there isn’t always a lot of context to the footage. Regardless, fans will certainly appreciate seeing this material if only to get a pretty revealing look at the cast and crew at work. Both discs include menus and chapter selection. Finished product should also include a DVD version of the first disc and a selection of liner notes but those weren’t provided for review purposes.

    The Final Word:

    The very fact that a deluxe special edition of Blood Rage is reason enough for rejoicing but the very fact that it’s as well put together and stacked with extras as it is? There’s some pretty serious icing on this trashy, bloody cake. The movie itself is a lot of good, gory fun and the fact that it’s such a time capsule of eighties era slasher conventions makes it all the more fun.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Excellent review Ian. I love this film and so pleased Arrow got it. They're one of the few that would give this turkey such as loaded release. I've only seen the NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS cut and was close to making my own composite when this was announced.
    1. John Lyons's Avatar
      John Lyons -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jason C View Post
      Excellent review Ian. I love this film and so pleased Arrow got it. They're one of the few that would give this turkey such as loaded release. I've only seen the NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS cut and was close to making my own composite when this was announced.
      We did the restoration on it and seeing it look good has made me appreciate it way more.
      For some reason the film's color palette really screams 80s to me (in a good way).