John Grissmer’s teen slasher Blood Rage (1987), newly released on Blu-ray, is at once utterly dreadful and irresistibly brilliant. Arrow Video has gone all out with this release, offering three distinct versions – the theatrical release, renamed as Nightmare at Shadow Woods, the harder home video release and a new composite cut of the two – all of which have been remarkably cleaned up and remastered. The home video cut is superior, retaining the gratuitous gore while cutting the pace-killing extra scenes.
It’s astonishing that so much effort and extras have gone into what amounts to a footnote in the slasher genre, but it’s testament to the undeniable pleasure in a film that, in terms of quality, sits somewhere between Friday the 13th (1980) and Troll 2 (1990). Blood Rage is a film that defies criticism; the acting is atrocious, the cinematography flat and the script either abysmal or inspired, depending on how one rates howlers such as “It isn’t cranberry sauce”, “I’d say this big bird is ready for carving” and “Looks like you’re going to get to meet the rest of the family; my psychotic brother just escaped”.
Yet the shots of the killer’s machete coming into focus out-Friday the 13th Friday the 13th and the synth score is fantastic, investing the otherwise ludicrous proceedings with a sense of dread and urgent excitement. They don’t make ’em like this any more, but more surprisingly, it’s difficult to believe that they ever did. Contemporary, self-aware forays into the slasher genre speak to a hyper-80s cinema that one suspects never really existed and yet here it is, in all its tiger-print leotard, big hair, bad-acting glory. Most notable are the thematic and technical relationships Blood Rage has with horror; the special effects come from Ed French, who worked on Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), the tone matches that of Halloween (1978) and even the sound of the phone ringing recalls the sound design in Black Christmas (1974). Blood Rage is cheap, daft and irresistibly entertaining. Poorly shot, badly acted and lazily conceived, it is a terrifically entertaining and gory thrill-ride and at 82 minutes, never out-stays its welcome. When you scream, it may well be with laughter, but when the value is this good, who’s to complain?