The Rage on DVD

Saturday, 10 January 2009 09:30

The plot summary of “The Rage” sets out its stall resolutely and with absolutely no sleight of hand. A scientific genius, Dr Viktor Visilienko (Lost’s Andrew Divoff, complete with reliable Russian accent) becomes unhinged after his master-work, a cure for cancer, is buried by greedy suits, and he’s ostracised and eventually locked up.

When the Doctor escapes, he vows to unleash a plague on the world that shunned him, a devastating disease that mutates its victims and fills them with uncontrollable rage and blood-lust. One of Visilienko’s human test-subjects breaks loose from his secret laboratory in a forest, and in turn infects the local wildlife and terrorises a group of care-free campers partying nearby.

The Rage on DVDA bunch twenty-something friends (led by Erin Brown) from the camp flee for their lives, only to end up back in the evil Doctor’s lab!

Robert Kurtzman has quite a pedigree for horror films. He’s the director of “Wishmaster”, creator of “From Dusk Till Dawn”, and co-founder of a special effects studio (KNB EFX Group). As such, fan expectation for this film - given the cheesy plot summarised above and the presence of Divoff – was quite high. “The Rage” delivers in terms of rolling out many horror conventions, be they good or bad, and it both belies its low budget and often cannot help exposing it to the viewer, sometimes to harmful effect.

Let us focus on the positives first, as thankfully they are more numerous than the negatives (if you are of weak disposition, you might want to skip this paragraph – and the film!).

Horror fans will love the buckets and buckets of gore on offer. Blood seeps from mutated sores, gushes from limbless stumps, splatters against windscreens and drips from freshly-plucked eye-sockets! But the film does not rest there. To accompany the tides of red stuff, you will witness jets of puss and projectile acid-vomit from the mouths of mutants. And as we all know, those that come into contact with blood and vomit from an infected being invariably become infected themselves.

Thus the time-honoured daisy-chain of crazed victims is established. To bring on this flood of bodily fluids, the film depicts an impressive array of weaponry, including baseball bats, axes, poles, knives, cleavers, guns, drills, screwdrivers, meat hooks and saws, not to mention teeth and, believe it or not, a dead mutant vulture! Yes, you read that right.

Alongside Divoff, the stars of the show are a flock of rabid and very persistent vultures that help to spread terror (and plague) throughout the forest, and through their weight of numbers prove more than a match for the hapless campers. Their stand-out scene is when they lay an all-out siege on the youths’ camper-van. Hi-De-Hi this is not (!), though when the gore is flowing, the film strikes the right note between horror and comedy.

The cosmetic and animatronic effects are extremely good. Humanoid zombies are stereotypically horrific and disfigured. Wounds are inflicted convincingly, and lopped limbs look the business. The vultures, which some of the time are represented by what appear to be a mixture of puppets and stop-motion, are satisfyingly animalistic and predatory in their movements and actions. When one of the campers destroys some of their eggs in a fit of anger, you know it will not end well for them!

With one notable exception, the pacing of the film is rapid and keeps you engaged, and the running-time is suitably trim at 82 minutes. The heart-pulsing music that plays through most of the film competently establishes the right sort of atmosphere, apparently taking its cues from genre classics such as “Jaws” and “The Thing”, amongst others.

Where the film fails to impress is in its use of amateurish external cinematography, some very ropey acting and dialogue, and weak CGI effects. Whilst scenes shot in the Doctor’s abattoir-esque laboratory are satisfyingly gloomy and claustrophobic, those shot outside – which unfortunately amount to half the movie – are garishly bright, look like they were taken with a home video camera, and substantially undermine the atmosphere.

CGI vultures in flight are not as convincing as the animatronic ones, and some of the explosions and green-screen matting are appalling, especially in driving scenes where the coarseness of views outside the vehicle’s windows led this viewer to think he had accidentally switched over to a 1950s film!

As for the acting and dialogue, of course one expects a high level of cheese and a certain amount of woodenness, but with the notable exception of Divoff, the rest of the cast cannot compete with the better effects and they are frequently acted off the set by the vultures!

A few of the really corny lines do make the cut, especially very knowing quotes like (in reaction to the motor-home driver deciding to take an ill-advised, off-road shortcut) ‘I’ve seen a hundred s@#tty horror movies that start this way!’ and (before accepting a spliff) ‘[Why not?] S@#t, we could be dead tomorrow!’ You can say that again.

It is a shame the movie is so patchy in quality, as the best moments do come close to matching classics like “The Evil Dead” and “Re-Animator”. Thankfully, the detriment caused by weaker elements is not overwhelming, and on reflection it is a fun, if average addition to the horror genre if you like tongue-in-cheek gore by the bucket-load.

The DVD release has no special features at all, which is also a shame given that documentaries and commentaries on this sort of film often provide insight and as much appreciative amusement as the film itself. A missed opportunity.

The DVD is released by Anchor Bay Entertainment on 16 March 2009, RRP £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com . Certificate TBA.

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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