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The Rage
cast: Andrew Divoff, Erin Brown, Ryan Hooks, and Sean Serino

director: Robert Kurtzman

82 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 2 retail
[released 16 March]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Mark West
I like cheesy horror films - as with any good diet, there's always room for a little cheese and I enjoy it. This film promised that - and much more - and it was directed (and conceived, set designed and goodness knows what else) by Robert Kurtzman (originally the K of KNB FX), so I was pre-disposed to like it. Unfortunately, what it promised didn't exactly come out in the execution.

The story starts in the lab (well, I say lab, it's actually a little barn that is much bigger on the inside and, as we later find out, has a cellar about the size of two football fields) of Dr Viktor Vasilienko (Andrew Divoff), who is busy experimenting on some people who make a lot of noise and bleed everywhere. Disillusioned with society (not explained until much later), he has created a rage virus (passed through bodily fluids, which bodes well) that he intends to unleash on the world. Unfortunately, the good doctor doesn't know how much to inject people with (hence the various 'failed' specimens he keeps locked up in the lab) and one of his botched trial-and-error guinea pigs escapes into the wilderness, where it subsequently collapses and gets eaten by vultures.

At an outdoor concert (by a metal band called Mushroomhead, who also shriek over the end credits), we meet up with Kat (Erin Brown, alias Misty Mundae), her boyfriend Josh (Ryan Hooks), their friends Pris (Sean Serino) and Jay (Anthony Clark) and a loose bit of stuff called Olivia (Rachel Scheer). Drugs are taken, partners swapped and then it's the next morning, the gang is heading off in a Winnebago and Pris is winding up Kat by snogging her boyfriend. During the ensuing argument, Jay (who's driving) hits Reggie Bannister (who has a pointless extended cameo, gets infected with the rage virus and is busy eating roadkill when he gets walloped by the Winnebago).

Our heroes get out, almost get swiped by Reggie and then the true villains of the piece emerge - the vultures. Yes, these birds are now full of the rage, looking very mangy, infused with super-strength and some kind of hive intelligence. Look, I said it was cheesy didn't I? The gang, their numbers depleted on the way (Jay gets his head bitten off and Olivia falls victim to a combination of huge leeches and the vultures), end up at the doctor's lab (how weird is that?) where they're captured and Pris is experimented on before all hell breaks loose. The doctor has a wonderful little speech and flashback (he's got the rage now too, you see - even though we clearly see him injecting himself with the antidote - and his face keeps shifting as he pauses to keep his anger in check), where he explains his past, why he's doing what he's doing and what exactly is going on with those pesky vultures, before they break into the lab.

From here, the film turns into a riotous sequence of set pieces, none of which seem to bear any relation to what went before (who's the midget with the girl-face-mask or, indeed, the chained up midget who keeps going even though he's got a screwdriver and a hammer in his head?), but all of which are quite good fun. So if you like your horror films cheesy, gruesome and stupid, then this is the film for you and you should stop reading this review now. However, if you believe that even a nice bit of cheese-on-toast should have some care taken when it's put together, read on.

On the downside, the film is only 80 minutes long but feels much longer, with scenes whizzing past their natural end points. This is most evident in the motor-home attack, where the assault becomes boring and monotonous and not at all scary. Generally, the performances are poor with only Andrew Divoff coming away with dignity (and the subtitling of his part, I reckon, seems to say more about the intended audience than the actor's heavy accent). I've never seen a Misty Mundae performance (apart from in Greg Lamberson's Johnny Gruesome short and numerous appearances and articles in Fangoria) but, from what I gather, she's famous for being a scream queen who takes her clothes off and has limited acting abilities; if that's the case, why appear in a film where you remain fully clothed and have to act?

The sound quality is poor and a lot of the gang's dialogue is very hard to catch though, when you do, you sometimes wish you hadn't. The style of the film changes occasionally - some shots are well designed and give you a sense of storyboarding/ a crew/ a tripod and others aren't, as if Mr Kurtzman and his friends nipped out and shot some stuff at the weekend with a video camera.

On the upside, the film is obviously designed to be a 1980s' style gore-fest and works well in that regard (though the makeup should have been better, bearing in mind the director). It's brash and colourful, full of little flashes of humour and it always takes the path of 'more-is-better'. It's not going to become the classic it so obviously wants to be, but it does attempt to fulfil viewers' expectations.

There's quite a bit of CGI in the film (only slightly with the makeup) but it's used sparingly and where it's obvious, as a low-budget film, that a real effect would have been impractical (i.e. fire and crashes). The vultures are also CGI (though cleverly mixed with puppets for close-up work) and, apart from being annoying and noisy, they work well.

So all in all, The Rage is good fun - if you're in the right mood for a slice of good horror cheese - but it could have easily lost 10 minutes and been a lot better.

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