Robert Kurtzman, the “K” in KNB Effects and the head of Precinct 13 Entertainment delivers one of the best drive-in creature features I have witnessed since the days of Ash and Herbert West. 2007’s THE RAGE is a thunderous splash in the blood puddle of horror that will get ever gore fan wet.
The Rage hits every single beat of the 80s teen slashers we know and love. There’s the shocking intro coupled with a sci-fi title sequence reminiscent of RE-ANIMATOR, and the introduction of a group of hard partying, promiscuous teens that can’t act their way out of a parking ticket rocking their Winnebago through the countryside. There’s the terror lurking in the woods, a mad scientist, mutants, my god where to begin?! There’s even an appearance by shock rockers Mushroomhead providing much of the pulsing soundtrack, and I can’t wait until 20 years from now they play like the opening band in KILLER PARTY. The best part of this outside the studio system blood fest is its all Ohio home grown.
The story kicks off with a mad scientist named Dr. Viktor Vasilienko played by Andrew Divoff of WISHMASTER fame up to no damn good. The good doctor has grown disillusioned with the society that had him disbarred and locked away when he revealed he developed a cure for cancer. Having escaped and taking residence in a wood shack laboratory he creates a virus that is designed to make those injected rage with anger, turning his innocent human guinea pigs into bloodthirsty mutants. One of his victims escapes into the forest after another failed attempt only to drop dead and be consumed by vultures. The Rage virus mutates and spreads as it infects the vultures turning them into aggressive birds of prey that hunger for human flesh.
A group of friends, out to enjoy the weekend, cut loose with some recreational drug use and three way sex. It’s these cinematic sins that must be cleansed in blood. They accidentally hit a mutated fisherman, destroy their RV, and that’s just the beginning of the chaos. They’re attacked by the infected vultures who now spew acid! The youngsters escape to the woods only to be captured by the mad Doctor. Once inside his compound the terror gets cranked to 11 as they must figure out a way to survive Vasilienko’s designs for infecting the world. Kurtzman weaves the classic story of survival into something fresh and fun. His story is campy, but well told and expertly delivered. His film dominantly stands among many of the classics he has helped envision and produce and now he can say it’s entirely his own.
The cinematography is quite impressive. With Kurtzman serving as D.P. and his own camera operator. Aerial shots achieved with helicopters coupled with “vulture vision” add a sense of in your face pacing to the terror of the story as the vultures rule the sky. Color palettes of blue wash the laboratory in a sea of hopelessness, and gritty greys bathe the basement in a way that hides a nightmare around every corner. You truly feel drawn into the action as the drama builds and builds offering no escape for the victims on the run. Inside the lab is the crazed doctor and his mutant freaks, outside are the feathered fiends out for blood.
The make-up special effects are astounding, something unlike anything that graces most low budget horror. Kurtzman has assembled a team of Jedi ninjas to create some of the most realistic creature designs you’ll have to see to believe. Each one is more twisted and depraved than the last, creating a sense of hope that this picture show should not end. This flick is pure porno for anyone that fancies themselves the next Tom Savini or Rick Baker. A personal favorite is the blinded monstrocity, Gor. The visual effects and the CGI of the vultures may make you think of some late night Sy-Fy Channel fare, and you’d be right, just let it go. The film makers marry the practical effects with CGI to bleed out a full encompassing vision, one of achievable believability. Only in the special features will you find how amazing of a job they did on such short time and budget that you’ll rewatch the film just to see that your favorite scene was actually computer generated.
The locations are as believable as anything offered by Hollywood. My sincerest hope is that Ohio will soon offer more competitive tax abatements to attract future filmmakers and their projects. This is a valuable growth industry that could revolutionize the Buckeye State if government officials have the foresight to invest in the arts. The town of Crestline where the film was lensed offers secluded woods, cornfields, and a solid base of operations that any low budget film should take advantage of with their productions. I can only imagine what the rest of the state could offer in landscape for what I hope will be a springboard for a sequel.
The Rage is the perfect Friday night boozing flick. This is the type of movie you eat with the greasiest food you can order, and you deserve it if you can stomach what flickers across your screen. It’s got monsters, cheesy dialogue, blood, boobs, decapitations, rock ‘n roll, a leech pit, amazing special effects and the heart that makes horror beat to a rhythm all its own. This is a film made by horror fans for horror fans. And the best thing about it all is the staggering amount of talent that is poured into this project. It’s almost unbelievable that the feature was completed in only 25 days.
The Special Features offer commentaries, production stills, effects make-up stills, two music videos from Mushroomhead, and a mind-blowing hour and 18 minute Behind the Scenes featurette that offers such a comprehensive look of their film making process you almost feel entitled to a snack from their craft service table. One of Kurtzman’s many reasons for moving to Ohio was to establish a closer bond to his family and that promise is realized in the tender moments of his two children on set with him and his wife who also serves as producer. It’s a labor of love that is fulfilled with talent and a passion for the craft of film making and the run ins with various crew members throughout the stages of production show their commitment to their shared vision from start to finish.
For comic book fans, there’s a series of stories that serve as a prequel to THE RAGE released in 2008 entitled, “Robert Kurtzman’s Beneath the Valley of the Rage”.
And I’ll do you crazy kids one better. Click here to screen the film for FREE! That’s my favorite four letter word…