3 out of 5
Directed by: John Grissmer
This is really a humdrum slasher (so much so that one of the alternate titles is the imaginative ‘Slasher’), but there are some notable elements that rocket it way above the norms for the genre, and then weighted back down to midrange territory due to a heckuva lot of obnoxious padding.
Twins Terry and Todd are zonked out in the backseat of their parents’ ride at a drive-in, but they wake and bustle out when mom and dad try to get their makeout on. Terry picks up a hammer, finds a couple also in the throes of smooching, and goes to town with the killings. Splashed with blood, he smears the goop on his brother and hands him the hammer. Blame successfully dodged!
Years later, we pick up with the college-aged Terry, living the happy life with mum, and Todd in a mental institution, coming around to admitting to (and convincing) his therapist that his brother is the one who committed that crime. Terry, over a Thanksgiving meal, seems to be triggered by mom’s announcement of marriage to her current boyfriend, and this is compounded by a phone call alerting that Todd has escaped.
Thankfully for Terry, this gives him an avenue for doing more murder – the boyfriend, other people at the apartment complex, his friends – and blaming it on Todd.
This is an absolutely acceptable setup, and because the movie just dives right into it – there’s no hiding who’s doing the crimes; there’s no sidestep into trying to “explain” things – it has that cheeky charm of indulgent, cheesey, 80s horror. The movie is also elevated by some impressive gore that goes for fully viewable stabbings and choppings, and some humorous bits where bodies are eviscerated, bits flopping around on the ground. Mark Soper, playing both Terry and Todd, gives the role(s) a surprising amount of legitimacy: Terry is clearly confuzzled by his own / his mother’s sexuality, often more viscerally attacking those invested in sexy stuff of one kind or another, but he doesn’t OD this pathology. Terry bops around with a machete, committing his crimes, and his casual, confident nature in doing so rather sells it, and make it a bit more frightening than some unhinged performance would. Similarly, while ‘Todd’ gets much less screentime, he is an entirely different character, and not presented as the typical mental patient. Rather, he clearly lacks social skills (having been incarcerated for so long), but is struggling to set things right.
This performance, and some of the interesting nuance in the script to support it, offsets the tone, though: the kills and interstitial stuff have a silly, self-aware vibe to them, and then the ending is pitch black and Terry’s / Todd’s behaviors belong to a bit more of a balanced movie (although an actor besides Soper may have leaned into the cheek more). We’ve also run through most of what the movie has to offer by about 40 minutes: there’s obviously no guesswork to be done on the killer, and there are no extended setups beyond couples or people wandering on to screen and getting butchered, so we fill up the rest of the time watching the twins’ mother, played by Louise Lasser, be obnoxious. She frets over where her boyfriend is; she speaks in an unintelligable whisper that has you turning the volume way up to hear her unconvincing delivery; and just in general, the movie lingers on her whenever it needs to break up the killings. Some of this goes into the bucket of interesting decisions – her own pathology displayed in her binge eating and obsessive cleaning of the house, for example – but much more often it’s just time wasting activities and bad acting.
Given this weird imbalance of pluses and minuses and the notable gore does certainly qualify Blood Rage for cult status, though, especially with the key repeated phrase of “that’s not cranberry sauce,” which has to be on a t-shirt somewhere. And part of the requirement for cult flicks is how much they improve upon over-and-over viewings, especially amongst groups, and yes, I can imagine Blood Rage as eliciting amusing WTF responses from new viewers, who can then laugh together when subjecting the flick to a following round of newbies…