In these days of rampant '80s nostalgia, it's perhaps inevitable that we'll soon be seeing another trend in Horror for full-on irreverent 'Splatter' of the sort that harks back to that of the early-'80s: that straight-to-video, gore-drenched crop of flicks once termed 'video nasties' which we thirty/forty-somethings all devoured (or at least gazed longingly at on the video store shelf) so eagerly as kids. It's hard to imagine that anyone will do a better job of re-creating/pastiching that period, though, than former KNB EFX Group make-up wizard, and now head of Precinct 13 Entertainment, Robert Kurtzman with this deranged homage to just about every classic period splatter-fest you can remember, and a few more besides!
"The Rage" wastes no time at all in staking out its territory: a 'mad' scientist hunkered down in an underground vault in the middle of some U.S. woodlands, is busy conducting unnecessary but bloody experiments on some live victims — experiments that involve drilling, hammering and gouging into skulls with a variety of lethal-looking paraphernalia, ensuring the screen is soaked in gore within seconds of exiting the cheap, computer generated credit sequence! The scientist, Dr. Viktor Vasilienko (Andrew Divoff), is developing a biological weapon which turns its victims into raging killers, apparently out of revenge for the greed of a corrupt Capitalist society (...or something). It transpires that the rage virus also turns those infected into postulated mutant creatures. Vasilienko keeps a cage-full of these past failures in the corner of his underground laboratory, and also has a sort of demented dwarf mutant as an assistant ... as you do! Inevitably, one of his monstrous creations escapes into the surrounding woodland where ex-porn star Misty Mundae (now trading under her 'respectable actress' name of Erin Brown) and her mates are attending a rave, smoking dope and having three-way sex which we don't get to see — it seems you'll just have to rent some of her other films for that! The mutant monster kills a couple making out in a car, but the virus causes his body to deteriorate until it becomes just a twitching bag of boiling pus on the ground. That would seem to be the end of the matter, but NO! a bunch (a colony?) of vultures (where did they come from?) then settles on the corpse and begin to feed off of the bloody, virus-infected entrails of the creature — which then turns them into rage-filled, mutant vultures that swoop on the friends' Winnebago, hungry for living flesh!
Judging by the insane proceedings from here on, Kurtzman certainly seems to know this sub-genre up and down and back to front, and knows he has no time for luxuries like plot or character development in the rarefied air of pure Splatter. The paired down elements of plot such as they are, appear to be there simply to serve the transition from one set-piece to the next, and each set-piece seems to be a homage of sorts to one or another classic '80s gore film, or the work of a particular director from that period. The film is relentless — often almost overpoweringly so with its one-note tone of sustained hysteria, especially towards the final act when we really enter a "Texas Chain Saw Massacre"-style violent bloodbath with shocks and gore piled on to the max in a seemingly never ending series of false endings. The only misstep comes when, twenty minutes from the end, the film pauses for a pointless and boring flashback, explaining Vasilienko's motivation — as if anyone cares! The film most resembles the work of Stuart Gordon, particularly the likes of "Re-Animator", but the full-on shock assault of "Evil Dead" is also frequently brought to mind, while an occasional (perhaps, deliberate?) tendency to transgress the bounds of good-taste, especially in a sequence that involves Horror veteran Reggie Bannister (the expected "Phantasm" reference all present and correct) as a kindly Uncle-turned-mutant chowing down on the cannibalised corpses of his dead Grandchildren (played by the director's own kids!), recalls the wilder shores of Italian Horror, especially the work of Lucio Fulci. The film doesn't strive too much for authenticity in terms of recreating the actual look of those old films, though: the gore effects are as modern and exemplary as one would expect from a film by a director who used to work for KNB, nothing like the usually shoddy effects efforts of 'real' '80s flicks. Also, although there are some satisfyingly cheesy shots of puppet vultures tucking into their victims, there is also a hell of a lot of CGI work involving swooping vultures attacking and the like that instantly reminds one that this is a contemporary film. Despite the relentless violence and catalogue of inventive gory deaths, the tone is kept fairly light throughout; the film is a very bloody joy ride all the way, with adequate acting from all the principles. In particular, Erin Brown proves herself to be an excellent addition to the Scream Queen annals.
The Anchor Bay disc presents the film with an excellent transfer but the disc is a bare bones affair with no extras whatsoever.