Filmed in 1983 but not released until 1987, Blood Rage tells the heart-warming story of two twin brothers, Todd and Terry Simmons (both played by Mark Soper).
In 1974, young Todd and Terry go to a drive-in movie with their mother, Maddy (Louise Lasser) and Maddy’s boyfriend. (It’s suggested that Maddy has had many boyfriends over the years.) The twins fall asleep in the back of the station wagon but, when they wake up, they discover that Maddy is making out with her date. This inspires Terry to sneak out of the car, grab a nearby hatchet, and walk from car to car. When he comes across another couple making love, he hacks the man to death and then watches as the man’s naked date runs into the night. Realizing that he’s about to get in a lot of trouble, Terry hands the hatchet to Todd and then rubs blood on his brother’s face. As a result, everyone assumes that Todd is the murderer.
Nine years later, Terry is living with Maddy at a secluded apartment complex called Shadow Woods. Todd, on the other hand, is stuck in an asylum and not very happy about it. On Thanksgiving, Todd escapes from the asylum and heads off to Shadow Woods.
Here’s where things get strange. Everyone assumes that Todd is heading to Shadow Woods to get revenge. That’s certainly what I assumed when he first escaped. But it turns out that Todd, despite all he’s been through, is still a gentle soul. He just wants to be free and to see his family. However, when Terry learns that Todd has escaped, he sees it as a perfect excuse to go on another killing spree.
So, while Todd is sneaking around the complex, Terry is killing Maddy’s latest boyfriend and all of their neighbors. Everyone who sees Todd asumes that he’s Terry and almost everyone who sees Terry assumes that he’s Todd. It’s an intriguing premise that has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, Blood Rage never gets as much mileage out of the idea as it should. It’s not until the last few minutes of the film that it really digs into just how messed up Maddy and her sons really are.
Every by the standards of an 80s slasher film, Blood Rage is brutal. Hands are hacked off. Heads are separated from necks. One unfortunate victim is chopped in half and spends what seems like several minutes feeling around for the lower half of her body. As opposed to emotionless killing machines like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Terry Simmons seems to get real kick out of what he’s doing, which makes him all the more disturbing. Interestingly, it’s not just the killing that Terry enjoys. Terry also seems to enjoy knowing that he’s specifically going to get Todd in even more trouble. He’s the ultimate bad sibling.
Mark Soper plays both Todd and Terry and he does a good enough job in the role that you can tell the two twins apart. Occasionally, Soper does occasionally go a bit overboard as Terry but then again, most murderers aren’t known for their subtle personalities. The film is pretty much stolen by Louise Lasser, who gives a memorably eccentric performance as Maddy who is, in her own way, just as unstable as her sons. Some of the performances from the surprisingly large number of victims are inconsistent but, in the end, everyone dies convincingly and that’s what really matters in a film like this.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, Blood Rage was filmed in 1983 and sat on the shelf for four years. Apparently, several different versions of the film have been released. There’s a version called Nightmare at Shadow Woods that has almost all of the gore cut out. The version that’s on Shudder is apparently uncut but it also opens with a title card that reads Slasher. Blood Rage is a bit of a generic title but it is appropriate. There is a lot of blood and there’s a lot of rage.
In the end, Blood Rage is an effective, if uneven, slasher movie. Though the budget was undeniably low, the gore effects are convincing and the whole twin subplot allows from some unexpected moments. The low-budget look of the film actually works to Blood Rage‘s advantage. The grainy images occasionally give the film a rather dream-like feel. At its best, it looks like a filmed nightmare. At its worst, it just looks like another low-budget slasher flick from Florida.
Blood Rage may not be a masterpiece but it is a good film for the Halloween (and, given the film’s set-up, Thanksgiving) seasons.