A bloody 80’s slasher set at Thanksgiving
Holidays have been a popular setting for slashers over the decades. Halloween and Christmas receive most of the attention for different reasons. Blood Rage is unusual in that it’s set at Thanksgiving in Jacksonville, Florida of all places.
First completed in 1983, the bloody holiday slasher wouldn’t see a theatrical release until 1987 in slightly re-edited form as Nightmare at Shadow Woods. Starring television star Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) and featuring gruesome special effects by Ed French (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), the forgotten slasher gloriously returns to home video courtesy of Arrow Video’s diligent efforts.
Blood Rage is a simple tale of twins and mistaken identity as one twin goes on a murder rampage while his brother is accused of the crime. Twins Todd and Terry (both played by Mark Soper) appear to be normal boys until one of them takes an axe to someone at a local drive-in theater. Todd takes the blame and is institutionalized for the crime, while Terry grows up to lead a seemingly normal existence with a girlfriend and several dopey friends. Ten years later, their mother Maddy (Louise Lasser) and Todd’s psychiatrist believe the wrong twin was institutionalized and that Terry was responsible.
News comes in at Maddy’s Thanksgiving family dinner that Todd has escaped from the mental institution. Something happens that triggers Terry’s latent murderous impulses. There is an entire psycho-sexual component underlying Terry’s madness that Blood Rage doesn’t fully explore in any detail. This is an abrupt narrative mostly concerned with showing the good stuff, its gruesome death sequences.
Terry can use his escaped brother as a convenient excuse to hide his murders at Shadow Woods, a ten-acre apartment complex. Having been committed for a decade, Todd is little help in stopping his mad brother from going on a very bloody rampage that sees Terry’s friends and family bite the bullet.
It’s a low-grade b-movie from the period that revels in its cheesiness.
It’s a low-grade b-movie from the period that revels in its cheesiness.
Blood Rage will likely be a polarizing movie for audiences today. Far removed from its original time period, the dated fashions and goofy acting performances are one step above pure cheese. If you are into gory, bloody murders set at an apartment complex, the Eighties slasher will certainly prove interesting. It’s a low-grade b-movie from the period that revels in its cheesiness, from the synth-heavy score to the flashes of young flesh. Louise Lasser gives a wild, unhinged performance as the twins’ mother. Maddy is bizarrely found eating out of the refrigerator as she stares off into space, among other character moments.
Those looking for a terrifying experience should likely look elsewhere. Mark Soper plays just about the least menacing serial killer seen in slasher history. Supposedly in college, Terry is a slight man with thinning hair. He is not the least bit intimidating, which works against Blood Rage.
Blood Rage is definitely a slasher from the Eighties that revels in bloody kills and cheesy character moments. Slashers were fading from relevance during this period and this film reveals why with its tired cliches and uninspired narrative. Hardcore fans will enjoy it as a nostalgic trip to the past.
The good folks at Arrow Video are serious about genre films and Blood Rage receives no less than the royal treatment, no matter its merit as a movie. The original, uncut Blood Rage receives a new 2K film scan from the 35mm camera negative and cleaned up using software. Two other cuts of the film, the theatrical cut and a new composite cut, are included on a second BD-50. Virtually no other distributor would have provided all three cuts, much less spreading them over two BD-50s. Considering everything, this is a magnificent restoration. Per usual, a strong AVC video encode by Arrow Video perfectly handles the light grain structure.
Once you get past the rough-looking, grainy pre-credit scene, the new film scan shows great color saturation and vivid clarity. The 1.78:1 presentation has a punchy contrast and errs on the bright side, slightly washing out flesh-tones. Blood Rage has fairly sharp definition for film stock of this period. It’s amazing what Arrow video has pulled out with their new scan. The overall print is in fantastically clean condition, having been gone over with Kodak Digital Ice software to remove dirt and debris.
If I had a complaint, some loss of fine detail is evident from the extensive filtering used to clean up the video. This transfer exists in the twilight area between film-like and processed. Some of the negative apparently suffered from fading, so a few shots are softer.
The theatrical cut called Nightmare At Shadow Woods is comprised of restored Blood Rage footage and scenes taken from a 35mm print. Those scenes are much darker and softer in appearance with almost crushed shadow delineation. The theatrical version actually has scenes unique to it, showing Terry at a swimming pool with friends before the mayhem starts. The third composite cut puts every possible scene together, making it slightly longer than Blood Rage in total.
The original stereo soundtrack was transferred from the 35mm optical negative using a Magnatech Dubber. The soundtrack was conformed by Marc Morris for Arrow Video. All three cuts receive a 2.0 PCM soundtrack. This is a synth score with driving, heavy bass. It almost overpowers the rest of the mix, including dialogue in a few spots. Some of Maddy’s whispered lines are almost unintelligible unless the volume is turned high. That poses a problem with its wide dynamic range.
Fidelity is very clear and precise. Blood Rage doesn’t have an elaborate sound design but sounds pretty good for a b-movie slasher.
Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.
Arrow Video digs up several people connected to the movie, including director John Grissmer and actor Mark Soper. This limited edition set will supposedly lose the second Blu-ray, Nightmare at Shadow Woods, when it sells out. A DVD is included in this 3-disc set with Arrow’s customary clear Blu-ray packaging. A random postcard advertising another Arrow release is included with the usual booklet. A slipcover mimicking the VHS cover era is available. This is an extraordinary package for a somewhat forgotten slasher.
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
- Fully-illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joseph A. Ziemba, author of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey
- Audio commentary with director John Grissmer – This commentary is moderated and also includes the film’s current co-owner, John Daly. Grissmer isn’t the most forthcoming speaker and there are gaps in this commentary.
- Both Sides of the Camera (09:59 in HD) – An interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter
- Double Jeopardy (11:01 in HD) – An interview with actor Mark Soper
- Jeez, Louise! (10:21 in HD) – An interview with actress Louise Lasser
- Man Behind the Mayhem (12:48 in HD) – An interview with special make-up effects creator Ed French that has worked on many films.
- Three Minutes with Ted Raimi (03:18 in HD) – An interview with actor Ted Raimi, Sam Raimi’s brother.
- Return to Shadow Woods (05:36 in HD) – A featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida and hosted by Jim Tucker.
- VHS Alternate opening titles (05:01 in SD)
- Motion still gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes make-up photos (04:31 in HD)
Limited Edition Exclusive bonus features:
- Alternate composite cut of the feature combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions (85:08 in HD)
- Nightmare at Shadow Woods – the re-edited 1987 theatrical cut featuring footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version
- Never-before-seen outtakes (26:39 in HD) – These outtakes run without sound and are shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio. A couple of them are very interesting, including alternate kill scenes.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.