Amid the slew of slasher films pumped out in the early 1980s, a few have been lost in the sands of time, available for years only in cut VHS form or rare DVDs (if they were lucky enough to even make the jump to that format) that have since gone out of print. Blood Rage (aka Nightmare at Shadow Woods) is one of those films. Currently available only on VHS and an expensive out of print DVD (which is heavily cut), it's a shame this wonderful little slasher film has to suffer anonymity while other (lesser) slasher films have been given the deluxe treatment with special edition DVD releases and some even making the transition to Blu-ray (I'm looking at you, The Dorm That Dripped Blood). The truth is, as an avid fan of these often-maligned films, Blood Rage is better than 80% of the so-called classics that have received better treatment in the area of home video.
What makes Blood Rage worthier than those other slashers and vastly underrated? Well for starters, the lead performance by Mark Soper who does a double take as the twins Terry and Todd, is among one of the better performances in slasher movie history. If you've read the plot description, you'd know that the movie is about two identical twins--one good, the other evil. Soper manages to play both roles seamlessly, which is surprising given the film's low budget origins and the genre. Each twin's facial expressions, body language, and mannerisms are contrasted perfectly to make it believable. Louise Lasser also hits the spot as the twins' mother, who slowly starts to lose it once she gets word that her son, Todd, has escaped his mental institution and may be on his way home for Thanksgiving. Little does she know that Todd is actually innocent of the crime that got him locked up as a boy--the brutal slaying of a teenage boy at a drive-in movie by way of a hatchet--and that Todd's evil brother, Terry, is actually the resident psychopath, living with her all these years undetected. It seems (or is at least assumed) that Terry's homicidal tendencies have remained dormant all these years until, one night, his mother announces her engagement and gets a phone call that Todd is on the loose. All of this is apparently enough incentive for Terry to have some fun again while probably assuming he can blame all of the new murders on the escaped Todd. And boy does he take advantage of his brother's escape. Terry hacks, stabs, and slices his way through most of the residents of the Shadow Woods apartment complex with much gusto. The gore effects in the uncut version are an 80s slasher fan's dream. The now out of print DVD edition titled Nightmare at Shadow Woods was a heavily cut presentation. We get multiple hatchet whacks to the head, an impaling, decapitations, severed limbs, bisections...the works.
The music is one of the best qualities about the film and one of the things that really sets it apart from most of its brethren. It really is one of the greater slasher scores I've heard, at times reminiscent of Halloween but with a more 80s vibe that you can really dig into.
We get the usual slasher movie conventions here and there--the kids throw a party in one of the apartments while some sneak off to have sex in certain areas of the complex which proves to be a very bad idea (stay away from that pool house). Eventually, as usual with these films, things dwindle down to the final girl, Karen--a likable enough actress who, while pretty, often makes some questionable decisions regarding her safety. But once the chase is on, we get several memorable set pieces that are at times genuinely suspenseful. Terry chases Karen all over the complex as she tries in vain to get help from the now mostly dead residents. This leads to lots of unopened doors and unanswered cries for help. There is one suspenseful scene in the apartment of a dead resident where Karen attempts to call for help while hiding behind a desk as we see Terry's bloodied machete slowly enter frame off to the side as Karen watches in horror as she looks up to see Terry towering over her. Speaking of Terry, he is really enjoying himself, jokes, smiles, and all.
The movie ends in the pool house with a little "twist" if you will (and given that the movie is about twins, no, it's probably not what you're thinking).
Overall, several factors in the film elevate it above the level of many of the 80s slashers that have received far more attention and care over the years. I wish some brave company would take a chance on releasing this in its uncut form sometime in the future so slasher fans can see it and appreciate it. I gave the film a 7 for sheer entertainment purposes. It IS a slasher movie, and yes, it often suffers from all of the flaws associated with these films, but pure fun can override your film snob sensibilities at times. Especially when a movie is this fun.
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