• Primal Rage (Dark Force Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Dark Force Entertainment
    Released on: May 17th, 2020.
    Director: Vittorio Rambaldi
    Cast: Patrick Lowe, Cheryl Arutt, Sarah Buxton, Mitch Watson, Bo Svenson
    Year: 1988
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    Primal Rage – Movie Review:

    Directed by Vittorio Rambaldi and written by none other than Umberto Lenzi (the man who gave us Cannibal Ferox and countless other Italian horror and crime movie classics), 1988's Primal Rage was an Italian/American co-production made during the end of the Italian horror boom of the seventies and eighties. The film was available on VHS during that format's heyday but had remained unavailable on DVD until Code Red released it on disc in 2010, only for that disc to go out of print not all that long after it was released. A decade later, Primal Rage lives again, this time on Blu-ray courtesy of those loveable, crazy-haired kooks at Dark Force Entertainment.

    The film is set at a Florida college campus where, unbeknownst to most of the student body, a scientist named Ethridge (Bo Svenson, decked out in a white lab coat and sporting the world's most pathetic ponytail) conducts experiments on baboons. What exactly he's up to isn't really made all that clear, but it's got something to do with brain surgery of some sort. Regardless, the baboon he’s currently experimenting on is injected with something that makes him very grumpy and prone to biting people. This is a lesson learned the hard way by a pair of would be 'gonzo journalists' working for the school paper - Sam (Patrick Lowe) and Duffy (Mitch Watson) - when the dastardly baboon chomps down on Duffy's flesh.

    As the movie plays out, dopey Duffy starts to show signs of infection. His skin starts to become sickly, his veins show through and his behavior becomes increasingly primal and enraged in nature. Go figure. Sam, who rides around town on a red motor-scooter, sets the two of them up on a date with two girls - Lauren (Cheryl Arutt) and an unusually pro-abortion chick named Debbie (Sarah Buxton) - but romance is not to be, for soon he starts to lose his faculties and goes on a rampage across the campus. Of course, Duffy's condition is communicable, and with this being a college campus and girls being readily available, he winds up spreading it. Before you know it, there are all manner of infected students running around causing trouble, much to the dismay of Ethridge and the local police force.

    With special effects handled by Vittorio Rambaldi's father, the legendary Italian horror effects king Carlos Rambaldi, Primal Rage, seen here in its uncut form, is pretty strong stuff in the blood and gore department. Not only is there a fair bit of carnage on screen, but the effects work used to turn the various infected cast members into the raging monsters that they become is perfectly goopy, puss-laden and generally just icky in every way that it needs to be. Say what you will about the acting and the storyline, but as far as the effects are concerned, Primal Rage is pretty impressive. Effects, however, don't make a movie. The story here is as goofy as can be and the performances are hokey and frequently overdone. There are moments where the stunt work is terrible (Bo Svenson's final scene in the film being the best example) and moments where it sounds like composer Claudio Simonetti is recycling a fair bit of his previous work.

    That said, hey, this is a trashy horror film from the late eighties. Let’s keep things in check as far as expectations go, alright? There's still a good bit of fun to be had with this picture. The finale that takes place during a Halloween costume party complete with a guy in a Darth Vadar costume is pretty nifty. It features different costumed merrymakers going about and doing their thing while a crew of skeleton-clad baddies tear it up just a few feet away. The acting, all of which appears to have been dubbed in post, is terrible more often than not but the characters and their eighties era wardrobe are colorful enough that it doesn't matter so much. On top of that, you can have a lot of fun playing 'spot the eighties pop culture fad' on the walls of the various dorm rooms and bedrooms that are used in the movie. Be on the lookout for the Noid, Robocop, Bartles And Jaymes wine coolers and quite a few other popular icons from the decade in which the picture was made.

    Primal Rage – Blu-ray Review:

    Primal Rage comes to Blu-ray presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition aspect ratio taking up 23.3GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Framed at 1.78.1 (not 1.85.1 as the back cover states), this transfer generally looks pretty solid. There is minor print damage noticeable here and there, just small white specks and what not rather than anything more irritating than that, but the image is appreciably film-like, complete with all the grain you’d want and some pretty nice detail as well. Colors are handled pretty nicely, looking lifelike and accurate, and flesh tones appear realistic as well. There are no problems with any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement, thankfully, nor are there any compression artifacts to complain about. All in all, this is quite a nice upgrade over the previous DVD edition, with much better detail, depth and texture.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 has a bit of hiss here and there early on but it’s minor, and the movie, overall, sounds quite good, again, offering up a nice improvement over the DVD release. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided.

    The only real extra on the disc is an interview with producer William J. Immerman that runs for twelve-minutes. He talks here about how and why a picture (but not this picture - possibly 1982's Highpoint?!) came about after he had finished up his tenure at 20th Century Fox and got introduced to some wily Canadians who wanted to get into film production. From there, he got the script and set everything up to be shot in Canada save for some pickup work in Los Angeles, the tongue-in-cheek nature of the movie, casting the film with comic actors from Toronto's Second City, the differences between the US version and the version that played everywhere else in the world, how the movie may have been ahead of its time in some ways, how he feels the film broke down the barrier to allow American filmmakers to go to Canada and make movies, how his older son got into Canada using a 'Star Trek ID card,' stunt work that was required on the feature and quite a bit more. This doesn't really have anything to do with Primal Rage at all, though clips from it are used throughout.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    Primal Rage – The Final Word:

    Primal Rage is a blast, a ridiculously entertaining piece of goofy trash horror from the late eighties with some pretty cool effects work and a storyline that, as silly as it all may be, keeps us more than entertained. The Blu-ray release from Dark Force Entertainment isn’t stacked in the extra features department but the interview is interesting and the presentation offers fans a nice upgrade over the long out of print DVD edition.

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