For classic horror fans, there’s a comforting charm to the gritty, sleazy, vintage slasher movie. Produced on shoe-string budgets, these films came during the original slasher boom of the late 70’s/early 80’s and capture a sort of time capsule of a time when independent filmmaking was a wild west, and places like grindhouses and drive ins would play the most absurd and insane of exploitation movies.
One such movie from that era is the made in 1983, but not released until 1987, Blood Rage. A lesser known gem that would be rediscovered years later when it was featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ “Dinners of Death” marathon on Shudder, Blood Rage taps into a time when film took bigger risks. It remains a fascinating case study for various reasons.
So in honor of its 35th anniversary today, we thought it would be fun and interesting to take a closer look at Blood Rage, and see if it was truly a lost gem society recovered, or something that should have stayed hidden in obscurity.
For many, this movie wasn’t even called Blood Rage when they saw it. It’s been known by titles like “Slasher” or “Nightmare at Shadow Woods”. Between the original actor meant to play Dr. Berman just not showing up (having to be replaced with producer Marianne Kanter), and the fact that the movie was shot in 1983, but barely got a limited release in 1987, this movie certainly had a rough time getting seen.
About as far from mainstream as you can get, Blood Rage remains one of the only 2 movies from director John Grissmer and screenwriter Bruce Rubin. It features a post Mary Hartman performance by Louise Lasser, who was still figuring out where her career was going at that point. She even feuded with Grissmer so much that he temporarily quit the production. But in a strange way, the movie itself serves as an inspirational tale of how a dream and some creativity can get a movie made.
Another fascinating feature about Blood Rage is that it’s among the very, very short list of horror movies set around Thanksgiving. Halloween and Christmas get all the attention as far as holiday set horror films go, but it’s fun to have a gritty and gory slasher to watch after (or during) a delicious turkey dinner.
The whole theme around Thanksgiving (other than food and football) is the awkward family drama that often comes with seeing relatives you don’t normally see. So the idea of an evil twin and family drama resulting in bloody murders is sort of the perfect cartharsis for those who cringe every time they have to deal with “that relative” they know they have to see on Thanksgiving.
But of course, the reason we love this film and those like it is that it is what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. It’s not really a film that’s trying to convey some profound social/political message, nor is it trying to wow the audience with countless twists or turns. It opens up at a drive in, and it knows that it’s exactly the type of movie that would play there.
The film stock is grainy, the blood is too brightly red, and half the cast don’t have pictures on their IMDB pages. There’s something about this era and this style of slasher that’s comfort food for many horror fans. For many of us, being a horror/sci-fi came with a misfit label that often carried through our lives. And this movie is very much the same thing to more mainstream cinema.
Boasting creative kills, blood-covered popcorn, a very young Ted Raimi, and a pun about someone thinking that blood might be cranberry sauce, it’s no surprise that it’s been given a societal revival by being featured on both The Last Drive In on Shudder and Dead Meat’s Kill Count on YouTube, literally one day after the other in 2018!
It’s a great comfort food movie for anyone who loves classic slashers that don’t take themselves too seriously. And it’s a movie that deserves to be recognized on its 35th anniversary today!
What do you think of Blood Rage? Let us know in the comments!