Primal Rage (1988) Poster


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In No Way Related to the Video Game I Played Religiously as a Teen
lovecraft23114 December 2010
Remember "28 Days Later"? You know, that movie in which a viral outbreak is caused by a diseased primate and dumb environmentalists? Well, it seems like Italy got there first with the 1988 movie "Primal Rage."

Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson) has been working on a new experiment on baboons that's supposed to heal damaged brain tissue. There's a bit of a problem though-said baboons carry a deadly virus that can cause people to be the victim of uncontrollable, murderous rage. Well, idiot/self proclaimed "gonzo journalist" Duffy (Mitch Wilson aka unknown actor with a generic name # 2061) decides to investigate, only to get infected. And he's spreading said infection. Can dull hero Sam Ashe (Patrick Lowe) protect his new love interest Lauren (Cheryl Arutt)? Will all hell break loose? Will bad 80's fashion and hair prevail?

An Italian/North American co-production directed by Vittorio Rambaldi and written by exploitation jack of all trades Umberto Lenzi, "Primal Rage" (which has nothing to do with the video game I played religiously back in the day) is a cheap little movie made in the ass end days of Italian exploitation. At this point, only guys like Dario Argento and Michel Soavi were doing anything worthwhile. Lucio Fulci's best days were behind him, Lamberto Bava never managed to do a good follow up to his "Demons" films, Lenzi had been regulated to bad straight to video and television fair-the list goes on. So while "Primal Rage" is a bad movie (complete with bad acting, questionable direction and logic, and horrible pop songs that make it feel like one of those old TGIF sitcoms) that hasn't aged well at all, it's at least an entertaining bad movie.

The movie manages to be one of the more graphic Italian horror movies from this part of the decade, which manages to help quite a bit. The viewer gets to see a scalping, torn out throats, crushed heads, gouged out eyes and more, especially in the last 20 something minutes at a Halloween party. It's also never boring, and moves at a reasonable clip for a 91 minute movie thanks to the fact that those behind it know what it is-dumb exploitation-and for the most part delivers what the viewer wants out of it. Also, Claudio Simmnetti's score is a lot of fun, and at times reminded me of his work for Bava's "Demons", and the the climax itself offers most of what one expects from a movie like this.

It may not be a great (or good) movie, but "Primal Rage" is a nice hunk of Italian Cheese made for a Saturday night with friends and some beer.
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An animal of a good time.
lost-in-limbo5 September 2009
Virtually a little unknown b-grade campus-based oddball shocker that's efficiently catered for, but doesn't break any ground with its unspectacular story structure (written by Umberto Lenzi) and systematic thrills, despite its unsparingly nasty tone (which goes overboard in the film's last 30 minutes at a Halloween party) and suitably icky if makeshift make-up FX and special effects (done by Carlo Rambaldi who did such films like; 'Planet of the Vampires (1965)', 'A Bay of Blood (1971)', 'King Kong (1976)', 'Possession (1981)' and 'E.T (1982)'). While two different films, the way the story flowed kind of had me thinking of the 1989 sequel 'Gnaw: Food of the Gods II', but this one wasn't that shonky and campy. Again there's a focus on a cringe-worthy 80s tune, which oddly makes it way in the opening credits (which will have you thinking what am I getting myself into?) and then during the Halloween costume party as the band is performing live. Oh good.

The story sees two college students Sam Nash and Frank Duffy working as journalists for the campus paper, where they suspect a professor there is doing inhumane animal experiments in the quest to restore dead brain cells. So Frank sneaks into the laboratory one night to take pictures, where he encounters a very aggressive baboon that in the process of breaking out bites him. Slowly he begins to feel the effects, he starts forming ugly looking sores and then uncontrollable bursts of raging violence takes over. Soon the virus begins to spread leaving a bloody trail and Sam along with his girlfriend try to put a stop to it.

After quite a slow-going set-up, it goes on to build up a head of steam with some grisly strokes with chaos erupting and a few moments of kinkiness from a couple of ridiculously twisted beef heads. Vittorio Rambaldi direction is efficiently surefooted for its minor budget, but the half-baked execution just lacks that punch where atmosphere isn't projected and the suspense doesn't eventuate too much than just unpleasantly rowdy jolts. Then at the end you get sudden jump scene that comes from nowhere, as like a second thought because they forgot about a character. Claudio Simonetti's wonky score is just like a ragingly spreading virus with primal instincts and Antonio Climati lenses with a professional curtness. The performances are modest with Patrick Lowe and Cheryl Arutt making likable heroines. Sarah Buxton also shines in her part. Bo Svenson presenting a fashionable ponytail makes light work as the devious professor.

Also there's a connection there with some of the cast and crew which saw them do the Italian cash-in of an American influenced slasher 'Nightmare Beach' in the same year.

Passably average, but it does have some twisted novelty moments within.
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It's not great but it will do for a nights entertainment.
slasherfan7 October 2000
Primal Rage isn't anything special, some people would consider it really bad but it isn't all that bad. the acting isn't bad but the movie is a bit predictable, the story line is not very original but the movie is entertaining. If you see it in the video store and you can't really find anything else you want to watch Primal Rage is a good substatute. The last half and hour of the movie makes it all very worth while. I gave Primal Rage 7/10.
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This movie deserves cult status
Wturnerbill29 June 2002
At first, I thought this was going to be another killer ape picture, instead it was an very cool knock-off of David Cronenberg's "Rabid", with awesome effects by Carlo Rambaldi. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these characters go berzerk to the music of Claudio Simonetti. The gore was plentiful and the ruckus at the Halloween dance was very exciting. It was also fun to watch one of Rob Lowe's brothers in yet another B horror picture. My only problem was the dated pop tunes that plagued the movie's soundtrack.
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Almost a gem. How have I never heard of this before?
d_m_s3 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The low number of ratings and reviews for this film is evidence that it is a little-seen flick and after having just watched it I am surprised that it is so well hidden and also that I have never come across it before (I am always on the lookout for 80's hidden gems).

OK, this isn't quite a hidden gem but it's a lot better than I expected, a lot better than its rating suggests and also a lot better than more famous yet higher rated horror films.

What stops this being a gem is the mid-point lull, some poor acting from the supporting cast and some daft bits in the storyline.

It's a bit frustrating because with some tweaking this could have been one of the great 80's horror films along with the likes of The Lost Boys and American Werewolf in London. There is a great soundtrack by Goblin's Claudio Simonetti, a fun pop-rock song in the intro, excellent special effects, some great death scenes, a highly enjoyable Halloween party sequence near the end and a decent storyline (that had huge potential to be a lot more fun and engaging had it perhaps been re-written a few more times before filming).

In a way I'm glad there a still some decent old horror films out there that are worth discovering but it's just a shame that this one could have been so much better. Still, it was a decent watch and would have been more enjoyable watch with some mates and a few beers.
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Enjoyable for fans of B flicks
Analog_Devotee7 September 2020
This low-budget flick was released the same year as Halloween IV, Child's Play, They Live and The Blob--so it's no wonder it flew under the radar of most horror fans at the time.

Cheesy doesn't even begin to describe the acting and writing in this one. You know the stickiness you feel under your shoes when you're in a movie theater in a bad part of town? Find a word for that and it'll probably describe it.

Still, there are some redeeming qualities--mostly the gore and the fact that it doesn't slow down and linger. There's always something going on, and the gore is actually decent for a flick that probably had a budget lower than the average ten-year-old's weekly allowance.

I'll probably never watch it again, but hey, I've seen worse!
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Say the word? Eighties! Say the word? Rabid Monkey-Virus! Say the word? Cheese!
Coventry18 February 2018
Leave it to the Italians to come up with one of the most engrossing, cheesiest and outrageously entertaining splatter flicks of the 80s! Umberto Lenzi, here under his favorite pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick, wrote the fantastically bonkers script but offered the director's chair to his lesser known buddy Vittorio Rambaldi. "Primal Rage" is as eighties as it gets: the über-cheesy and misfit pop song "Say the Word" doesn't just feature once or twice but three times integrally, there are loads of beautiful girls with humongous hairdos and sexy aerobic outfits and even the obsessive evil scientist sports a ridiculous little mullet-ponytail! There were quite many horror movies with monkeys during the late 80s, but unlike you'd suspect from Lenzi, "Primal Rage" isn't a clone of "Monkey Shines", "Link" or "Shadow of Kilimanjaro". Dr. Ethridge is working at a Florida University campus and uses a baboon as guinea pig for his research involving brain diseases, but he accidentally saddled the poor animal up with a virus that invokes rage and rabies. When the rebellious campus reporter Frank Duffy breaks into Ethridge's laboratory, he releases the baboon but gets bitten and thus contaminated with the virus. Duffy passes forward the virus to a cute girl he met during a blind date and she, at her turn, contaminates a trio of vicious rapists. Each virus carrier goes on his/her own killing spree during the night of the annual campus Halloween party. "Primal Rage" is clichéd, derivative and predictable, but oh-so-entertaining! The film is fast-paced and features terrific make-up art as well as countless of gory highlights, including beheadings and impalements. Hunky 80s kid Patrick Lowe is rather annoying, but the rest of the cast is decent, with young and yummy actresses Cheryl Arutt, Sarah Buxton and Jennifer Hingel. Naturally, of course, it's Bo Svenson who steals the show as the fanatic scientist (with ponytail). Special kudos for the creative minds who thought up and designed all the dozens of great costumes that people are wearing during the Halloween party! I honestly never saw any cooler or creepier horror costumes in my life.
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Not bad.
bombersflyup10 August 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Primal Rage isn't bad, a few changes and voila.

It's a shame the better characters, Duffy and Debbie are shutout fairly early. Buxton's quite nice. Some awful stuff with Lowe and the goon trio, but the Halloween party's a nice touch to bring it home. Svenson's ponytail has to be one of the worst ever, ha.
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So bad, it's a laugh riot
Leofwine_draca17 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is a really really bad Italian B-movie which will prove itself to be a treat for bad movie lovers. It's definitely one of the worst Italian movies I've seen, but also one of the most unintentionally funny. Credibility goes out of the window right from the start, when we are introduced to a wooden cast of actors playing teenagers and 20-somethings who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag if their lives depended on it. The usual bunch of B-movie types are present and correct, from the dashing journalist hero, to his love interest, to his kooky friend, and the local gang of rapist thugs. Bet you can't guess who'll survive to the end credits, can you?

Lurking around in his cheap lab (a room made up) is creepy scientist Bo Svenson, who must have been REALLY down on his luck when this was made. Svenson - who sports a really, really bad short ponytail - has been conducting experiments on a monkey (created by Carlo Rombaldi and, briefly, the only real "special" effect in the film) which inevitably escapes to go on a rampage. No matter that the "killer monkey" films had already run their course by this time (after both Romero's MONKEY SHINES and LINK), as the monkey is immediately splattered against a passing car. However, it has bitten one of the journalist's friends, thus begins the real plot of the film.

The bite turns the victim into a subhuman animal unable to suppress his/her primal instincts (as the title might suggest). What this means is that a bad actor/actress goes around with some very cheap but nonetheless gruesome "vein" make up plastered all over their faces. If they last for more than a couple of hours, they also go through the old "oatmeal face" routine. Of course, this wouldn't be a horror film without pulsating wounds either, so we have those in abundance (and slime - it really does go without saying).

The basic course of the film has the bitten victim committing a string of gore murders while the journalist and his girlfriend investigate and try to stop him. Four more people get bitten, and the disease is transferred to them for maximum carnage. It's all very predictable - and moderately entertaining - until the over-the-top finale, set at a Halloween party, where a number of unsuspecting dancers find themselves on the receiving end of some brute force and evil urges. That the good guys win out in the end (accompanied by some cheesy pop music playing in the background) is a foregone conclusion.

Another of the Rombaldi family, Vittorio, directs in a very uninspiring manner, showing little talent for getting the best out of his performers or creating excitement or suspense. Alex Rombaldi also provided the no-budget make ups, so it really was a family get-together for the Rombaldis with this one! The script is very unoriginal and treads through the same old clichés; it's no surprise that Umberto Lenzi decided to use a pseudonym for this particular piece of work.

The murders are done pretty sloppily, and usually cut away from the gore and violence. People are strangled bloodlessly and one guy has the skin ripped off his hand (a trick done simply by pulling a pink glove off a skeleton hand). Lots of death occurs at the finale, when the three infected gang members go on a rampage dressed as the Grim Reaper, complete with flashing red eyes; ironically the Halloween costumes that they wear are the scariest things in the whole movie! There's lots of fun to be had here, as they attack and kill one would-be Dracula, and are in turn spiked, crushed and axed to death. The best death occurs when one character is crushed to death in a scene which resembles the ending of THE TERMINATOR, which conveys maximum pain and brutality without having to resort to any special effects whatsoever (all we see is his mask being crushed)!

Of course, there's also a cheesy twist ending in which infected scientist Svenson comes back for one last attack - and is thrown off a balcony. A dummy is used just as badly as the one in ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, although sadly the arm doesn't come off this one for entertainment value; however, the hilarious effect has much the same impact. PRIMAL RAGE is without a doubt a really shoddily-made film, but offers hours of endless amusement for easily-pleased bad movie lovers who will have a riot with the poor effects, wooden acting and cheesiness of the film.
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*1/2 out of 4.
brandonsites198130 May 2002
Almost unheard of Warner Bros. pic finds a scientific research monkey biting someone. That person is then turned into a rabid, bloodthristy killer who spreads the virus to anybody that isn't dead that they come in contact with. Half hearted production is not as bad as you would expect, but not by much, this film features good make-up effects and a memorable finale. Rated R; Extreme Graphic Violence and Profanity.
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