Being British Thanksgiving Day is a literal foreign concept to me. I believe it is something to do with the first settlers who worshiped a turkey god being thankful for receiving Amazon Black Friday gift vouchers when they met the Native American’s right before they stole their land or something but I am not sure.
The reason I mention the American holiday (which by the way always seemed like a weird fake Christmas right before Christmas to me, maybe the whole country was just jealous of the Queen having two birthdays who knows!) is that the 1987 horror Blood Rage which has recently be rereleased in a brilliant Blu-ray set by Arrow Video is set at said giving of the thanks.
We could talk about holiday related horrors from New Year’s Evil through My Bloody Valentine and April Fool’s Day all the way up to Black Christmas but unlike many of these others thankfully Blood Rage is not all bad puns and themed kills but something a little different to what you might expect.
Opening in 1974 at a drive in appropriately playing a horror film in amongst the teen’s getting high and getting off with each other we are introduced to Maddy (Louise Lasser) mother to twin boys Todd and Terry out with her latest beau while the kids sleep in the back of the car.
The brothers awake and rather than watch their mother making out they go off to explore the drive in. Taking a workman’s deadly tool Terry wanders about finding a naked couple getting hot and heavy and when the man gets aggravated at the boys watching he brutally murders him wiping the blood on Todd and blaming him for everything.
10 years later Todd (Mark Soper skillfully playing both brothers) who has been in a mental asylum all this time has finally had a breakthrough realizing that he is innocent and that it was Terry who committed the terrible crime.
Unable to get through to his mother who still believes Terry to be a saint Todd escapes the hospital on Thanksgiving without a plan however this prompts his cold calculating insane brother to concoct the perfect cover for himself and set off on a horrific slaying spree while blaming his sibling all over again.
Directed by John Grissmer who only made this and one other film from a script by Bruce Rubin who was equally unprolific afterwards the slasher is highly original in that the killer is known to the audience from the start. Avoiding masks, inventive weapons and intricate traps Terry simply wanders around the Shadow Woods apartments looking like any other 80’s teen except with a machete brutally yet calmly killing people and the film is all the more scary for its stark simplicity.
As in Hitchcock’s classic definition of the distinct difference between suspense and surprise by letting the audience in on all the secrets but not the characters we feel much more invested in Todd’s mission to prove his innocence and far more fearful of Terry’s random rampage.
Skittish and scared Todd is the weaker brother psychologically damaged by what his twin did while still reeling from his mother’s rejection while Terry is supremely confident ruling over his home and his friends while brilliantly blending in and lying about his true deranged nature like a true psychopath would and Mark Soper excellently plays both characters clearly understanding and embodying both.
Packed full of Freudian ideas related to the twisted relationship between the twins and their unhinged mother there is also an interesting element of the excess and corrupting force of the 80’s ere perfectly conceptualized in Bret Easton Ellis’s sublime American Psycho with Terry coming across on the surface as the all American jock with the perfect girlfriend while a disturbed blood rage bubbles underneath let out at last for one night of killing.
There is also plenty of gore, dismembered discoveries and great gruesome effects which ever slasher always needs well captured in an early scene including the one Thanksgiving related gag line “it’s not cranberry sauce” which Terry says while starring calmly at his guts covered blade.
Interesting and involving Blood Rage (also known as Slasher and Nightmare at Shadow Woods) is an above average slasher which fans of the genre will enjoy for its originality and the amazing Arrow release which includes three versions of the film and tons of extras makes it the perfect Thanksgiving present that is if you give presents at Thanksgiving don’t ask me I’m British.